KUCHING: Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) often invokes images of villages and waterfalls, a land where the city melts away and lush Sarawakian nature shows its colours and character.
MPP, formerly known as Kuching Rural District Council, was set up in 1956 and operated for 40 years before being upgraded to a municipal council in 1996.
It is home to a number of well-known attractions like Kubah National Park, Annah Rais Longhouse, Benuk Longhouse, and Borneo Highlands Resort.
Residents and businesses converge to townships like Batu Kawah New Township (MJC), Kota Sentosa and Kota Padawan.
Meanwhile, several agencies are also located here. This includes the Police Training Centre, Health Science College, Prisons Department, and Sarawak Biodiversity Centre.
As it stands on its 17th anniversary as a council, MPP’s domain spans an impressive 1,431.82 sq km and its borders are rapidly being overtaken by the suburban sprawl.
Better road networks in Kuching means that the quaintly-named municipality is no longer an outpost that requires expedition-level planning to get in or out of. It is easy enough to jump into a car and experience a fascinating drive through the combination of zones.
Modern dwellings and bustling commercial centres give way to jungles and mountains that is home to a scatter of villages – places so far-flung that the city feels like an alien world.
This puts MPP in an interesting position. With a workforce of 401 staff members as of last year, it is running on numbers that are disproportionate to the amount of development that has arrived at their doorstep.
This is one of the urgent matters that MPP plans on addressing; not by increasing its head count too rapidly, but by identifying and training leaders in order to improve both internal and external communication.
They are looking into revamping their work culture from the inside out and creating managers who are able to manage their resources. This is vital in bringing the council to the people instead of expecting them to make a potentially long drive from the other end of Padawan.
One of the ideas is to set up centres in various locations like Siburan, Telaga Air and Kota Sentosa so residents there can seek out the council in their neighbourhood. For that to happen, MPP needs the right people who can both head such centres and work with the locals there.
The council recorded a population of 316,500 as of 2012, a leap from 2011’s figure of 310,599. Private holdings climbed steadily since 1996 (20,984), with last year’s 65,355 proving that more people are moving their homes and businesses in search of something better.
With it came the increasing cost of development. More buildings do mean more rates, but it also means more infrastructures for maintenance and more waste to haul away.
It lacks the density of urban areas, therefore consuming more resources just getting from point A to point B.
Acknowledging the increased development, MPP’s 17th chairman Lo Khere Chiang expressed keen interest in forming a closer rapport with Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda).
“I would like to see more collaboration and co-existence between MPP and Sheda in an effort to plan and improve developments in our area,” he said.
This should not be limited to buildings, he added.
“There should be more social infrastructure, playgrounds and such that will encourage social development.”
This will help create an environment that is clean, safe and prosperous, which in turn will boost property values and benefit its owners.
Padawan’s strength is in its abundant nature, something worth banking on as people seek to be closer to nature.
Although Padawan is teeming with great potential to make more of itself, its public relations officer Abdul Razak Awang Bini pointed out that potential is merely potential if nothing further is done about it.
“You have to exploit it to become a benefit. Now it’s about manpower. We need people who are competent. The leaders must lead also, if not the staff will only be waiting for instructions.”
Greater community involvement is ideal. While events like the Padawan Raft Safari was initiated by MPP, the ideal scenario is to have the community take charge of the event.
“But they must be creative enough,” Razak said, referring to the opportunities that are created when hundreds of people converge onto the area for an event.
Ideally, they should run the event, with the council playing a supporting role in providing financial or relevant forms of support.
“This is what we’re aiming for. We want to facilitate only, not to initiate all the time. We want the community and NGOs to initiate.”
This falls under MPP’s aim to redefine their goals and focus, and to narrow the gap between where they are now and where they want to be – better than before.- theborneopost