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Who is Martin Haese?


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At the age of 10, Martin Haese lived directly opposite an early-twenties Anne Hasenohr – who grew up to be long-time councillor Anne Moran.

The pair will be personal allies as he enters Adelaide City Council from the outside, even if Moran’s characteristic contrarianism re-emerges this term.

In 1993, Haese set up his first YouthWorks store in Rundle Mall – a small fashion business that ballooned into a $25 million franchise with 16 stores in Adelaide and Melbourne, and more than 200 employees.

Since then, he has lectured university students on retail and won a stack of awards for his entrepreneurial achievements.

Haese’s business credentials, along with a distaste among Mark Hamilton’s voters for Stephen Yarwood’s “New Adelaide”, are what got Haese elected on Saturday night.

His central agenda is to make the City of Adelaide a hive of entrepreneurs and new businesses, and to strengthen the old ones, and deflect direct competition from pop-ups and food trucks.

Haese plans on setting up a “retail department” within Adelaide City Council to court big business interstate and overseas, and to nurture small- to-medium-sized businesses in the CBD, including more seed-funding for start-ups.

Haese also wants slower speed limits in the city, but with better traffic light sequencing, and discounts on parking for city residents and businesses.

He accepted “limited financial contributions” from city business owners during his Lord Mayoral campaign, but says he funded more than 50 per cent of the campaign himself, to the tune of around $30,000.

He told InDaily none of his donors had any expectations that they would be able to influence his agenda after the election, and that he would never accept donations if such expectations existed.

Haese will not lead the council towards big-spend projects like the Victoria Square, Rundle Mall and Frome Street renovations of Yarwood’s tenure, instead calling for a more austere and “back to basics” focus, prioritising the delivery of infrastructure such as roads and lighting.

However, he acknowledges his predecessor’s efforts to improve city “vibrancy”.

“I give great credit to Stephen Yarwood for leading that charge, because he’s done it and he’s done it well, and I think that’s irrefutable,” Haese said.

“What the council has done in the last term around vibrancy has been very important for Adelaide.”

Haese said the drive to encourage vibrancy would only grow under his leadership.

“I will work very hard to continue that trajectory, if not accelerate it,” he said.

“I founded one of the most, quote unquote, vibrant youth companies in Australia, and I think I’ve got pretty solid credentials in youth culture.

“I think I understand this space well. I think I understand the imperative to continue this trajectory of vibrancy.

“There are direct links between vibrancy, youth retention, youth retention even and possibly entrepreneurship.

“Whilst we maintain that … we need to build a more robust business environment.

“These things aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Despite Premier Jay Weatherill’s endorsement of Yarwood and complaints about the behaviour of council administration during the election campaign, Haese said he would be able to form strong working relationships with both.

“I was disappointed about the Premier’s endorsement of Stephen, I’m not going to shy away from that,” he said, “however, that’s now in the past, and we are moving forward”.

Much of Haese’s vision for the city has yet to be revealed in detail.

According to the latest election results, Haese is likely to lead an eclectic mix of old and new faces: Natasha Malani, Anne Moran, Sandy Wilkinson and Robert Simms (Area Councillors); Houssam Abiad, Megan Hender and Dave Slama (Central Ward); Alex Antic and Priscilla Corbell (South Ward); Sue Clearihan and Phil Martin (North Ward).

Haese said he would wait until he has sat down with other elected councillors to make firm policy commitments on the majority of his platform.

He would not say what his plans were for Victoria Square (though we can expect “lower-cost activation” to be a defining feature).

He is also yet to reveal which streets, or on how many streets, he would like to see 40km/hr speed limits imposed.

Exactly what new regulation he has planned for food trucks and pop-ups, or what voting reform he wants for local government elections, is also under wraps – though he says the voting system is “complex” and “clunky”, and compulsory voting “could be” a solution.

The Frome Street bikeway is another contentious issue about which he has yet to reveal detailed policy (though he says he won’t be extending separated bikeways anywhere else in the city, and favours green painted bike lanes).

Haese wants a review of the bikeway to address safety concerns for both cyclists and motorists, because of the cement barriers and the necessity to check blind spots when turning left.

“I want to know if there’s been incidences reported, if so, what nature and how many,” Haese said.

“If it’s not safe, in my view, that would expedite a faster decision to be made, which might require modification to the existing structure.

“If it is deemed safe, that project, we need to then do some consultation with surrounding businesses on the impact of it.”

Haese also wants clarification from the State Government on its plan for the Riverbank precinct, and promotes a long-term aim of linking it with Victoria Square via Grote Street and the Central Market Arcade.

Haese had his first meeting with council chief executive officer Peter Smith this morning.

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