David Schembri: “If it can be done in Qrendi, it can be done everywhere”
The Mayor of Qrendi in Malta describes how a small village manages to promote tourism, sustainable development and community spirit
- January 29, 2019 14:30
- Aseniya Dimitrova
David Michael Schembri MQR, married with two children, was elected as Qrendi’s forth Mayor in 2013. As a head of the Qrendi Local Council, he has contributed considerably to the development of the village, including through the implementation of European projects for growth. During this time, Qrendi went on also to receive the European Union “Destination of Excellence” title in 2018 in recognition of its community contribution to Culture. Thanks to his proactive and can-do attitude, the Mayor is a frequent speaker at international conferences, sharing the good practices of his locality.
Apart from his service as a Mayor, in 2018 David Schembri has been awarded with a medal by Her Excellency Madame President Marie Louise Collerio for “His service to the Republic”.
Find complete biography here.
Mr Schembri, can you tell us what is unique about the village of Il-Qrendi and what will a visitor discover here?
To begin with, Qrendi has established itself as a touristic destination since 1950’s and where after World War II Qrendi it was very much promoted with the British Servicemen and their families because of the UNESCO Neolithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra dating back to 3600 B.C. as well as Wied iz-Zurrieq and the Blue Grotto - sea caves and a small fishing port, that have very clear waters and fine colours beneath the water’s edge.
Apart from this, in 2017, Qrendi has received the title of the European Destination of Excellence in Cultural Tangible Assets, since we believe that one cannot only have tourists come to the Temples and the Blue Grotto but need to attract them also towards our village.
Moreover, within Qrendi we have “The Maqluba”, a very big sinkhole that was created on the 23rd November 1343 and is approximately 40 metres deep. This place is spiritual, because its combination of a geological Doline and a legend.
Apart from this, there are two small chapels next to it, both dedicated to Saint Matthew. The smaller is recorded to have been in existence prior to 1575, with the larger built in 1682. We also have our Parish Church, dedicated to the Assumption into heaven of Santa Marija, and where we have recently celebrated the 400 years of its establishment of a Parish, on the 19th February 2018.
Two big feasts are celebrated in Qrendi, that of the Assumption into Heaven of Santa Maria and that of Our Lady of Lourdes, which are celebrated in July and August respectively, and where for one week a lot of manifestations are organised, with both religious and social celebrations, with of fireworks.
In Qrendi, we are fanatics over fireworks, and where in the year 2015, our two villages’ religious societies received three prestigious titles, that as Malta champions, International champions and Ground fireworks champions. Not surprisingly these feasts attract tourists coming to Qrendi to share these wonderful experiences.
We also have three towers located within our confines which are unique, two are coastal and one further inland, all constructed by different Grand Masters from the times of the Knights of Malta. We have what is known also as The Commanders Garden, a Victorian Garden, built by British governor general, given over to the community, in recognition for helping to eviction the French from Malta.
Because of these experiences, in Qrendi we greatly appreciate tourists that much more, we are friendly, and where everybody wants to meet their visitors out of general interest. We take good care of tourists, because we have experienced and reaped the benefits of such encounters.
Your locality has recently been awarded funding by the European Union for the Green Initiative measure. Can you explain how useful the EU funding has been for you and what changes does it bring about in a small village like yours?
Unfortunately, the budget that we receive from the central government is not enough to allow us to implement the initiatives that we would like to. Hence, through EU funding we have managed to overcome these challenges allowing us to build roads between the village and the temples through the European Rural Development fund. We have managed to start to restore unique dry rubble stone walls around the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mercy. We have also secured funds to clean an area from illegal Construction dumping and give a breath of fresh air to the locality, and recently we have been awarded €75,000 to embellish an area close to the temples in order to embellish the environment.
Through EU-funding we managed to create a video documentary and write a book about the beauty and charm of our locality. Through the Green Action leader funding, our societies have created funds to improve their infrastructure and religious artefacts that date back hundreds of years. Oviousely, the importance of EU-funding is most essential and very much appreciated in our locality.
With this respect, can you describe how do you preserve and promote the enormous touristic offer of the village, a great example of which is Hagar Qim Temples, a UNESCO heritage site?
Now, the temples within our locality are administered by the national heritage trust, Heritage Malta, so our responsibilities require us to create better access through good road maintenance, good signage, and clean environment.
However in regards to the other attractions as well as the village, we are using every opportunity available, mainly the local media through TV programmes, as well as through the printed, transmitted, and broadcasted media, that also include articles on the Airmalta inflight magazine that welcomes tourists coming to Malta.
Apart from this, we have helped in the production of a number of documentaries focused on the hidden assets found within the locality. We use Facebook to its full potential, where the Local Council has its very own page, used not only to promote our touristic assets, but to issue information about daily happenings and notices.
All this helps us a lot to promote our locality locally, nationally as well as internationally, and serves to be close to our residents.
But of course, through your very own portal TheMayor.eu, the benefits that we are anticipating to receive from your very own promotion and publicity, are great, and for which we must thank you tremendously.
Promotional video about Il Maqluba and Qrendi by Malta u lill hinn ninnha
As far as the environment is concerned, could you tell us a bit more about the "iBiN" Recycling bins that are soon to be introduced in Qrendi?
In Qrendi, we are steadily establishing ourselves as “environmental guardians”, and where we are continousely promoting the love for the environment mainly among our residents, and most importantly with our school children.
The circular economy, as well as the 3R”s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) are something which the Maltese are starting to take much more seriously.
Accordingly, we have set up three localities within the village, where one can deposit all you’re their recyclable waste: paper, plastics, metal and glass. These battery of four bins are currently being emptied once a week despite the fact that our council provides a free weekly door-to-door collection. But what happens sometimes is that at times these get overfilled, with the contractor not being aware of the need to effect collection.
With this in mind, our waste management contractors GreenPak Coop has signed an agreement with Vodafone Malta whereon these iBins are being installed with a microchip which informs the Vodafone Nerve Centre on the condition of these bins and especially those needing emptying. This is an initiative, realized again through EU-funding, as implemented by the GreenPak Coop National Recycling Agency, and where hopefully by the end of February or early March 2019, all the Recycling bins in Qrendi and around Malta will be replaced by these iBins.
A mobile application, also indicates which bins are available close by and their state. In this way, we are collecting efficiently the waste without added transportation costs that are saved on coming to pick the bins when these are not full and or not coming when they are. A win-win situation, a novelty to the Island, and I hope that it will be copied as “best practices” by other EU-member states ans municipalities.
Apart from the forementioned, what have been the greatest achievements of your administration, since you assumed the post of Mayor?
I am extremely happy because our locality and Local Council, has benefit from a lot of support from the Local Government. The latter has realized the potential of Qrendi both as a tourist destination and as a destination of Excellence, both for tourists and for Maltese alike,
Currently most of our roads are being resurfaced through central government funding, something extremely pleasing to us, but is also helping in the infrastructure of roads throughout Malta, as now one no longer needs to go through the central Malta to go from one place to another but can use, these country roads that get them faster and more efficiently to their destinations without experiencing traffic congestions.
Our council’s challenges are big, and are mainly related to infrastructure, waste management, and anything that you can think of. Being small in population has its benefits but also has its challenges. Challenges that one can turn into opportunities, in seeking as to how to improve in a way that does not require too much logistics, finances, and additional resources in this regard.
Another good environmental initiative could be mentioned here is the tree afforestation programs that we foster locally whilst living in a country that does not encourage the growth of trees, as our rainfall is very low especially in the hot summer months.
What our government has done, is deciding to plant a tree for every child born throughout the year and affixing a name tag and date of birth to every tree sapling, but as a small locality we are amongst the last to benefit from such fine initiatives. So as a Local council, we are handing out seeds to schools, together with a small book as on their care, and when it is grown, we are planting it in the locality and putting the name tag on it. What will happen then is that when kids grow up, they will tell their children “Look, I have planted this tree in 2019”, as an example.
Additionally, the EC English language school in Malta, annually receive Japanese students visiting Malta to learn English and who plant Maltese Tree Sapling in our locality as part of the school’s Corporate Responsibility programme.
As our village boasts of having the Sandarac Gum Tree (Malta’s National Tree) growing in our locality, our local council together with local tree lovers are continuously exploiting every soft area available in creating miniature afforestation sites, thus putting words and promises into actions.
This is a wonderful initiative, indeed. Beyond the upcoming elections in May, what changes are you anticipating in 2019 for your locality?
I shall be contesting the elections along with my colleagues, from both Malta political parties, coming May 2019. In this respect, I hope that if things are to change, it will be for the better, as this current legislature has not worked solely to get re-elected, to win the polls, but more importantly has worked to create a better “Standard of Living” for its residents, irrespective of their religious and political beliefs.
A council that truly believes that Qrendi is as much, “Mine, Yours, Ours”. As a local council, working in harmony and synergy together, we are planning for beyond May 2019, as our council beliefs in succession planning, and looking forward in the best interests of our constituents. In terms of initiatives this includes:
- The construction of the Qrendi Civic Centre, Clinic, Council offices, Day Care Centre, and workshops
- The construction and redesign of a recreational and playground area, equipping this with modern playground equipment.
- The restoration of Our Lady of Mercy Sanctuary and square.
- Improving the Traffic junction at the Wied Babu\Triq il-Panorama belvederes.
- The paving and embellishment of the alleys located within the village Urban Conservation Area.
- The construction of a multi-level tourist car park at Wied iz-Zurrieq.
- The embellishment of the Grand Master Lascaris Torri Xutu Surrounds at Wied iz-Zurrieq.
- To asphalt additional roads and streets both within and outside the village core.
- Creating Heritage Trails
- Fostering Animal Welfare initiatives through Cat Café’, and neutering programmes.
Initiatives that we have talked about for years and years but never got down to actually seeing these getting done, but where as a Local Council we have already started work on their implementation, so am hoping that after May, there will be no changes, in adopting the same attitude in regard to planning for the future.
I am happy to state that whenever one project gets finally commissioned, another is being implemented, and yet another being planned, initiatives and projects that are designed for the good of the locality, and its residents. Creating a greater sense of community and keeping our residents informed, has proven beneficial to all.
Working with our schools and young children with regard to education, environmental, physical activity, circular economy, and every topic that we believe we need to address, are giving very good results and is proving beneficial to all. We thereby pass on our message to the next and future generations.
Our village “Best Practices” have been promoted in UNESCO conferences and world summits, helping to explain what is being and how things are being done in Qrendi.
However, working as team with one’s deputy mayor, minority leader, councillors, executive secretary, principal and council staff, is of an utmost importance, remembering that no person is an island and “where in unity there is strength”.
Finally, TheMayor.eu portal is itself helping in promoting our very own locality, its best practices, as well as the achievements of our councils, and other municipalities. Please never underestimate the good work that you are doing yourselves.
GRAZZI HAFNA – Thank you very much,
David M. Schembri MQR, Mayor at Qrendi - A European Destination of Excellence
Find more about the tourism and history of Qrendi here.