Gooise Meren has a lot to offer to inhabitants and visitors
Interview with Han ter Heegde, Mayor of Gooise Meren in the Netherlands
- July 04, 2019 11:30
- Aseniya Dimitrova
Han ter Heegde (1958) was born in Enschede. After high school he studied public administration at the University of Twente. He is affiliated with the VVD, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. On behalf of that party, he was a councillor in the municipality of Voorburg until the end of 1999. After that he was mayor of the municipality of Langedijk. Five years later, he was appointed mayor of Heerhugowaard. In 2010 he was reappointed for a period of 6 years. Since January 2017 he is mayor of Gooise Meren.
Mr ter Heegde, how would you describe the municipality of Gooise Meren? What could a visitor discover here?
Gooise Meren (57.000 inhabitants) has a lot to offer to inhabitants and visitors. It is strategically located in the centre of the Netherlands. The Lake of Naarden (‘Naardermeer’) is one of the best-known natural reserve parcs in the Netherlands. Muiden hosts the most famous castle of the Netherlands and Naarden is one of the best-preserved cities in Europe. Bussum has a history as the founding city of national television, a great place to live and to go shopping. Gooise Meren has several attractive beaches in Muiderberg and Naarden. In Gooise Meren you can go hiking, cycling, sailing and swimming. There is also a lot to experience in the cultural field. Once every two years, a well-known photo festival takes place in Naarden.
The municipality exists since 2016 following the merger of Bussum, Muiden and Naarden. Could you tell us what led to this administrative change and what major challenges did you have to overcome in relation to it? How do you evaluate the developments so far?
In our country, municipalities have been given more and more tasks in recent years. By merging Naarden, Muiden and Bussum, these tasks can be performed much better. The civil service organization of a larger municipality has more specialists and is less vulnerable.
It was a challenge to get the support of the residents. Some of them were afraid that they would lose their own identity. That is why the municipality has ensured that the own identity of Muiden, Naarden and Bussum is preserved as much as possible. For example: Bussum, Naarden, Muiden and Muiderberg all have their own prize for "the volunteer of the year".
The new municipality is doing quite well. The municipality is performing its duties well and is increasingly receiving support from the residents.
What is your strategy to positioning the new municipality well within the region and beyond?
The directors of Gooise Meren participate in partnerships with other municipalities in the region "Gooi and Vechtstreek". They also participate in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. This is an administrative partnership between the provinces of Noord-Holland and Flevoland, 32 municipalities and Amsterdam. The region Amsterdam has a population of almost 2.5 million and includes airports and seaports and is the financial centre of the Netherlands. The cooperation with the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is important for our employment, for the protection of our nature and for the accessibility of Gooise Meren by train and car.
Collaboration with the civic society and citizen involvement in decision-making are a top priority for the government coalition. Could you explain the measures to enhance the participation in local policies in general and for young people in particular?
The municipality of Gooise Meren involves residents at an early stage in decision-making about matters in their immediate living environment. For each subject, we determine in advance what the residents can talk about. The city council takes the final decisions, but the advices of the residents and other stakeholders are of great importance.
You have set high goals in the field of sustainability, including the halving of CO2 emissions, becoming fully circular by the mid-century and restoring biodiversity. What main steps have already been taken and what do you foresee to be completed by the end of the term in 2022?
The municipality of Gooise Meren believes sustainability is very important. But we also realize that the municipality cannot achieve much on its own. That is why we are seeking cooperation with our residents and entrepreneurs. All municipalities in the Netherlands will play a leading role in the energy transition in the coming years. It is clear to us that we must therefore start working with supra-regional partners, such as the large energy companies.
Is there any good practice and innovation from Gooise Meren that you would like to share with our audience?
We are proud of our Local Initiatives Table. Residents who have a good idea to improve something in their neighbourhood (for example: more involvement among the neighbourhood residents themselves) can take their ideas to this table. We give them advice, help them with publicity and bring them into contact with residents who strive for the same thing. Sometimes we also make a small financial contribution.
Find more about Gooise Meren here.
Like the interview? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest from the EU cities right into your inbox.