THE southwestern district of Pontian, Johor holds the honour of being home to the Asian continent’s southern-most tip.
It is an area called Tanjung Piai.
But its fame goes beyond, as the district also attracts people from all over the country who come here for the fresh seafood, wetlands, nature trails and beaches.
In the business world, Pontian comes to mind for having one of the biggest producers of condoms and fishing equipment in the region, as well as a major power plant and petrochemical industry under its jurisdiction.
StarMetro speaks to Pontian District Council (MDP) president Nor Syazlan Abd Razak to learn more about the district and what Pontian has to offer, besides the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Q: Pontian is part of the Iskandar Malaysia economic region. What is unique about this district?
A: Pontian is located near Johor Baru and is a popular destination for eco-tourism, especially with its vast mangrove forests at the Tanjung Piai National Park and Pulau Kukup National Park.
Pontian also has some major industries such as the Tanjung Bin power plant, one of the largest facilities of its kind in peninsular Malaysia, supplying electricity to the state.
The district is also home to the biggest condom manufacturing plant in the region, located in Kayu Ara Pasong, run by a local company and producing mainly for export.
We have a major fishing equipment manufacturing factory here too and a petrochemical industry where a Dutch company is involved in the storing of raw petroleum for export.
There is also an up-and-coming jet fuel processing project which is expected to be developed in the area soon. There are seven industrial estates spanning 786.88ha, which is roughly about 0.84% of the entire district.
Q: Tell us more about the new road construction project near Tanjung Bin, and the expected spill-over effects from this project.
A: The Sungai Pulai Bridge project, connecting Tanjung Bin in Pontian with Gelang Patah in Johor Baru, is slated for completion in November this year.
This bridge is expected to cut travel time from one hour to 15 minutes. Tanjung Bin is surrounded by agricultural industries and I believe this project will bring more commercial and industrial activities that will benefit the local community.
Q: How many ratepayers are there in the district and how has the revenue collection been in the last three years? What does the expenditure for MDP involve?
A: Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, 31,335 ratepayers in Pontian diligently paid their taxes, which resulted in MDP recording a surplus last year.
We expect a surplus in 2021 too. Our revenue is mainly spent on development and maintenance of premises, stalls and landscaping. Ratepayers comprise residents and companies but the biggest contributors are the mega industries.
Q: How has Covid-19 impacted MDP’s operations so far?
A: During the first movement control, three of our staff (an office staff and two enforcement personnel) tested positive for Covid-19 but they have since recovered.
We reduced the number of staff on duty and cancelled physical meetings and courses.
During the pandemic, we also noticed an increase in overtime claims as our personnel are assigned to monitor the situation at wet markets and wholesale markets, which operate from as early as 4am until late at night.
Pontian has three wet markets namely Pasar Awam Pontian, Pasar Awam Pekan Nanas and Pasar Awam Benut and a smaller one in Jalan Bakek.
As an added precautionary measure, we encourage the public to use online payment channels instead of coming to the council in person to pay their bills.
Q: What are the main issues faced by Pontian residents?
A: The top five complaints concern drainage, public cleanliness, landscape, business licences and stray dogs.
We received a total of 812 complaints last year, compared to 830 complaints in 2019.
We encourage people to continue giving their feedback.
They can channel their complaints to MDP via the Public Complaints Management System (SISPAA) by clicking on the option at www.mdpontian.gov.my/, i-Tegur mobile application and via MDP’s Twitter and Facebook page.
Our staff are given a maximum of three days to respond to the complaints and seven days to take action on those that do not involve allocations.
Our team meets fortnightly to discuss issues that need further action, where necessary.
Q: How many local councillors are there in Pontian and how do you rate their performance?
A: We are supposed to have 24 councillors but so far, only 13 positions have been filled.
Despite this, we have been able to function as a team as we only need a minimum of eight. They are from Barisan Nasional (eight), Bersatu (four) and PAS (one).
They are mostly ex-local councillors so they have experience in this area. MDP and the councillors have a good working relationship.
We have yet to receive any information from the state government on when the remaining positions will be filled.
Q: What are MDP’s plans to help residents and traders in Pontian this year?
A: Our focus this year is to help the people, especially business owners. For this reason, we have waived rental for MDP premises from 2020 to 2021 as well as licence fees (for this year) to help petty traders.
Due to the adverse impact of the pandemic, many people have started their own business including opening roadside stalls.
So, MDP has taken a business-friendly approach to ease the licence application process as long as traders do not obstruct traffic or cause safety issues.
We advise them to apply for a licence instead of penalising them.
We have lined up a few initiatives including the smart shopping programme where MDP works with MyKasih Foundation to disburse monthly aid in the form of RM100 credit to 100 recipients for a period of 12 months.
The recipients, from less fortunate families, can use the credit to purchase essential items to lessen their financial burden.
This annual programme started in 2017 with 50 recipients and was increased to 100 people this year.
Besides that, we also organised a food bank and Jom Sekolah programme for selected schools to provide food and school supplies to 375 underprivileged students.
Q: Lastly, what expectations do you have of your staff especially during this pandemic?
A: MDP is now in the final stages of being upgraded to a municipal council by 2021.
Once a municipality, I expect staff to improve in the delivery of services and to assist the public the best way they can.
Our focus should be on improving cleanliness at existing facilities. We have plans to upgrade stalls in our jurisdiction. I hope that the public will join us in making Pontian a clean and safe place.
We are also in the midst of planning for a bicycle lane to promote the district’s beautiful beach view.
I am a big fan of sports tourism and in 2019, we organised the district’s first cub prix where Pontian town was turned into a motorcycle circuit with participants from all over Malaysia.
The event was initially met with some resistance from the public but then they (the public) asked for it to be held again after experiencing three-fold increase in their business during the event.
Nor Syazlan, who is currently the youngest council president among 16 councils statewide, has been in Pontian since July 2018. Following a recent promotion, he will leave MDP for a new role as Johor Sports Council director beginning Feb 1.