WE are putting questions on the big issues to candidates running in the Port Macquarie-Hastings council election.
Voters go to the polls on Saturday, December 4.
These questions are based on issues our readers have voted as being of most importance to our community.
We asked: Is our council too 'Port-centric'? What are your key focus areas for Camden Haven and Wauchope regions?
Here are their responses in the order groups/candidates appear on the ballot paper:
- Who is in the running for Port Macquarie-Hastings council election?
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- 2021 Council Elections: Orbital Road corridor, roads and traffic management
- 2021 Council Elections: Management of Lake Cathie waterway
- 2021 Council Elections: Population growth and supporting infrastructure
- 2021 Council Elections: Development, protecting our coastline and housing
- 2021 Council Elections: What more can council do to protect koalas?
- 2021 Council Elections: What is your position on sustainability and climate change?
GROUP A - Fighters for Our Region: Lisa Intemann, Kingsley Searle, Stewart Cooper, Narelle Milligan, Paul Bradford
Yes, sometimes council is absolutely too Port-focused, as if there is nothing else. Our Team Intemann decided early in our campaign to address that problem.
We realise the majority of the population lives in Port. But that shouldn't mean Gordon St, for instance, gets major repairs twice while roads in outer areas get nothing but patches on patches.
We will ensure council gives respect to all residents, as well as acknowledging the importance of the hinterland for recreation, tourism and primary production.
Importantly, council must act on the various Community Plans it went to the trouble to consult on for several years and then adopt.
Right now, those plans seem to be just gathering dust.
Once elected, we will ensure that every Community Plan is analysed for both quick wins and high priorities, and funding allocated for each community in every annual council budget.
Poor communication is also a problem.
People are frustrated with abysmal communication from council, endless but ultimately pointless. Our Team Intemann is determined to fix that and re-build trust in council.
Less talk, more action.
We will ensure that each local community is consulted on immediate priorities before council sets the annual budget each year, then clearly state which projects are slated for the coming year, with a timeline for delivery.
If there are delays, council must immediately advise the community, explain the problem and what's being done to get things back on track.
Seems simple, but why never done? Sometimes it's like council just can't admit it has problems.
That's where councillors can come in, not only pushing for solutions, but also speaking directly in language hopefully everyone can understand.
A major promise of our mayoral candidate, Lisa Intemann, is clear and honest talk. Cut the whatever, and just get the job done.
GROUP B - Hastings First: Nik James Lipovac, Kerry Fox, Linda Lenord, Michael Clarke and Justin Hardie
We've heard many times how disconnected from council, Wauchope and Camden Haven residents and businesses feel, and how it has been of particular concern over the past four years.
So yes, we have become a little Port-centric. There's a couple of options that should be considered going forward to improve connectivity.
The adoption of a "Wards System" as part of the council election process that works in many areas of the State and provides for equitable and proportionate representation of all areas.
We would also like to see the return of portfolios to councillors so they may act as a representative at meetings and discussions with stakeholders.
Each councillor would be assigned to report on various core responsibilities such as infrastructure, finance, sporting amenities etc. This way councillors can know a lot of details about a few speciality areas instead of knowing a just a little about a multitude of areas.
Our key focus is in the Camden Haven is to continually monitor the future population growth and the development that comes with it, to enhance pedestrian access and improve the "Lake" Cathie situation.
For Wauchope and the hinterland, it's time to begin and complete the Wauchope Sporting Precinct originally announced in 2017, further promote the region as a significant tourist destination by highlighting the many natural attractions and ensuring the roads are up to standard to cope with additional traffic.
This is just a few of the many areas that require greater attention in the LGA outside of Port Macquarie.
GROUP C - The Greens:Lauren Edwards, Stuart Watson, Drusi Megget and Les Mitchell
The Greens believe that if our residents in the Camden Haven and Wauchope think that council is too Port-centric, then we have our work cut out for us to address this.
We want to better listen to and work with our community from all localities within our LGA to develop and carry out plans that are based on community aspiration and need.
We also want to see that a transparent formula be developed and used to calculate a bare minimum guarantee of funds available for community projects and road maintenance in all our localities so that each of the townships in our LGA can look forward to seeing regularly occurring improvements happening in their location each and every year.
Team Pinson believes that Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has under delivered overall in the way of key and critical infrastructure.
This under-delivery is evidenced by the massive cash stockpile that council has amassed over the last 10 years. Back in 2011, council was holding approximately $100 million in cash reserves, which at the time was considered an appropriate level of working capital.
As a June 2021, there was more than $340 million dollars in cash reserves which is nearly a quarter of a billion dollars of extra cash that has amassed in that time. This cash stash has continued to rise year on year due to not only under delivery, but increased development contributions, earned interest and government grants that remain unspent.
The scary proposition is that more than half of the current council candidates are saying that they will not unlock those funds because that money is locked away or restricted or can't be spent on infrastructure.
This approach by those candidates is fundamentally flawed and will almost certainly lead to our council coming under much more scrutiny from the State Government who are already looking at why our council has not delivered the infrastructure it should have, after raking in the contributions.
Team Pinson has three very experienced current or former councillors including the current mayor who know exactly how to 'un-restrict' and unlock those funds and fast-track the delivery of roads, water infrastructure and sewer upgrades to better service the whole region.
As a community, we simply cannot afford to elect councillors who want to continue and support the under-delivery of critical infrastructure that we have already paid for or continue to stockpile ratepayer funds for, for no good reason.
GROUP E - Team Sheppard: Rachel Sheppard, Greg Freeman, Linda Elbourne, Ethan Francis
To answer the first part of this question simply, yes. To answer the second part of the question, the Hastings and Camden Haven communities have already let council know what focus areas they want in the recently developed community plans.
However, I'd like to provide a 'bigger picture' answer. From an economy-first perspective, council is necessarily 'Port-centric'. Over 70 per cent of the population lives in Port, most of our population goes to Port to access important services and Port is our core economic hub. As a result, an equitable and strategic approach to infrastructure and services currently requires a focus on Port.
However, business and even state government are adopting more robust economic frameworks, where less weight is given to short-term economic outcomes, and greater weight is given to long-term community and environmental results.
This more balanced framework firstly highlights the existing strategic value of the Camden Haven and Hastings communities. This includes the existing robust and growing agriculture and eco-tourism industries, incredible natural resources, and community character and spirit.
Secondly, this framework highlights the economic and human risks of failing to strategically support these communities. There is only so much 'resilience' a community can show in the face of disasters before community strength begins to fatigue.
Finally, this framework opens opportunity for council to facilitate the right type of triple-bottom-line economic development in the Hastings and Camden Haven. For example, we've seen a sudden growth of small-scale sustainable agriculture throughout the pandemic.
Council could provide this sector (and other rural industries) the type of strategic economic development support currently offered to the construction and building industries (e.g. an industry specific action plan, advocacy, helping attract investment etc). This would strategically share economic benefits beyond Port, and in turn create the strategic argument needed to justify more infrastructure and service delivery for the Hastings and Camden Haven communities.
Council has been WAY to Port-centric over the years!
For to long the Camden Haven and Wauchope have been under serviced by council.
You only need to look at our road network, stormwater runoff and sewerage systems, our lack of footpaths, shared pathways, our kids running out of sporting facilities, the list goes on.
We all pay rates and it's time there was equity around our region and we start looking after our local mums and dads.
I understand Port is probably the economic engine room, but unless you service the entire mechanics of the region it breaks down.