Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Policy Platforms of Candidates in the Clarence Valley Local Government Elections, Saturday 10 September 2016 - Part Two

North Coast Voices contacted as many Clarence local government election candidates as was possible and issued an invitation to supply their policy positions for our readers.

Here is the second post in this series.


John Hagger corflute

I have worked to halt Any special rate rises (including progression of Council’s preliminary work for a permanent 41% Rates increase over 7 years).

Those massive rate rises on every home and business in the Valley damage us and do not repair the underlying problems.

According to TCorp, adoption of the proposed 41% Rates Rise:
Would still result in Council having deficit budgets for, at least, the next 9 years.
Would not result in catching up with the infrastructure backlog and
Would still leave Council Unfit for the Future.

I am strongly opposed to:

Any diversion of the Clarence.
The Yamba Mega Port.
Any plans for CSG mining in the Clarence.

My Aim is:

A Council that is part of the local Community.
The repair of the trust deficit that has developed under the current Council.
A Council that lives within its means.
A Council that reduces its debt burden below the suggested maximum of $110 Million Dollars as soon as possible.
Council debt is currently in excess of $135M.
An open, accountable, and transparent Council.
A Council that truly reflects Community wants and aspirations Not dictates to it.
A level playing field for All People.
Greater Encouragement of Sustainable Business and Local Jobs that do not destroy the beautiful environment we are part of.

We are currently one of the poorest Local Government Areas in NSW.
A healthier economy increases the quality of life options available to People and the number of services that can be provided.

A renewed focus on Council buying local would help as would a level playing field, increased transparency, reduced up-front fees, and a Council with a ‘Can We Help’ outlook.

Ensuring Our Public water supply stays in Public hands.
To do this the new Penstock at Nymboida, which has been offered to Council by Essential Energy, needs to be included on Council’s asset register.

We are facing some very serious challenges in Our Valley.

Our Council has been judged as Not fit for the Future.
Our local economy could do so much better than it is.
And our Council has saddled itself with a debt burden that exceeds its own loans policy.

Some of our current Council will tell you everything is fine but that we need a 41% Rates Rise and a reduction in services.
That does not sound like any definition of ‘fine’ that I am familiar with.

There is a Better Way.

We have so many assets that are Un-Used and are just adding to Our maintenance costs.
The sale of some of those to bring our debts back to sustainable levels and to catch up on the infrastructure backlog buys us some time.

Sustainable development is the longer-term solution as is ensuring Council lives within its means.

It is Not up to local People to be constantly paying for Council’s mistakes.

It is up to Council to adjust their behaviours and actions to what the People of the Valley want and can afford to pay.

Text and image supplied by John Hagger


Debrah Novak

I am excited to announce that I am a candidate in the Clarence Valley Council
election. I have worked hard for the Clarence Valley for over thirty years in a
variety of volunteer and paid positions. One of my proudest moments was having
this work recognised in the form of a nomination for Clarence Valley Citizen of
the Year in the 2016 Australia Day Awards.

It is this desire to work hard for our community that has lead me to nominate for
the Council elections and step up my contribution to the Clarence Valley.

There is hard work and tough decisions ahead for both Council, and our
community. Local infrastructure backlogs, unfair rating structures, the South
Grafton depot, lengthy DA approvals, lack of accessibility to councillors, a
proposed mega-port in Yamba and poor communication between Council and
the Community are all issues that need to be addressed.

I am putting my hand up to have a go and apply my work ethic for the next four
years towards laying the foundation for the future of the Clarence.

I don’t pretend to know everything and know I am in for a steep learning curve
should I be elected. To be honest, I can’t promise an extensive amount of political
experience to bring to the Council table, but the Council already has plenty of
political experience. Maybe now is the time it needs something different.

I can’t promise political expertise, but I can promise to be someone who will
listen respectfully to all, no matter their opinion or background. I can promise a
voice that has been in the area a long time and knows what it is like to raise
children and start a business locally. I can promise a voice that supports common
sense, getting back to basics and not spending beyond our means or slamming
local residents with a special rates variation.

I won’t be telling you how to vote nor will I be giving any other candidates my
preference vote. If I am fortunate enough to be elected I will professionally work
with whomever else you elect on the day.

My vision for the Clarence Valley is for everyone to be inspired to be part of the
conversation so that we may confront our issues together and as best we can. If I
am elected to Council, I intend to start that conversation as soon as possible.

Text and photograph supplied by Debrah Novak

Marty Wells


Running on the under 45's ticket for Clarence Valley Council, MARTY WELLS
has his sights set clearly on the future, by focussing on a 4 year plan.

“This next Council will have to uphold a commitment to revitalise
the entire region by the year 2020, and I've got the vision to
maintain that energy.”

His main policy is structurally sound and simple: Keep our children

                          HAPPY        HEALTHY        HERE

“Anyone aged 14 now will be eligible to Vote at the next Election
Are they happy now? Are we listening to them?
What would they consider important if they wanted to be happier?
Families need to feel that Council will cease talking over their heads
and build realistic programs, to remind us all that we care about kids.”

Mental health has long been an issue of importance locally, and one that Marty feels
continues to be swept under the rug, or even addressed with only half-hearted concern.

“My work within a number of community groups has granted me insight into
how much pressure there is to achieve more than previous generations,
and how easily upset our youth can get without proper support.
We must identify the real causes behind the genuine cases of mental illness,
and act now. Not in two years time: right now.”

Marty believes that change is paramount, in order to give the Valley hope.

“We can't expect our kids to just nod and agree with us.
The current council has done almost nothing to retain the attention of
our Under 30's for long term prospects and growth. They have used social media
more as a platform to pat themselves on the back, which negates the real purpose:
To provide a two-way means of communication with all of our residents,
from all situations.”

By 2018, Marty would like to see the graduation rate from Year 12 increase to 35%
and to review previously unsuccessful plans to build a University within the Valley.

Text supplied by Marty Wells and photograph from @mwells.cvc


Unknown artist’s impression of Andrew Baker

I was fortunate enough to be born, raised and to live in Maclean until 15 years old. Since then I’ve lived and worked around the Clarence Valley at Grafton, South Grafton, Maclean, Woodford Island, Mountain View, Lawrence, Ashby and Harwood Island - interrupted by 4 years in the Pilbara Iron Ore industry at Shay Gap. I started property development in Maclean in 1985.
Studying accountancy for 2 years made me realise I should become a Real Estate Agent. I completed the 3-year licensing course in 1990. In 1989 I started my own Real Estate Agency in Maclean. At the same time, cane farming for 11 years at Sportsman’s Creek from 1992 included 3 years elected director to the board of one of the top 250 Australian businesses at the time, the NSW Sugar Milling Cooperative.
I’ve attracted success, failure, achievement and support from wonderful people many times along the way. At the 2012 council elections I offered my open-book life experience to  voters. I was humbled to be then elected as councillor.
Now I’m one of 4 councillors with one shared vision and imperative - to repair the council financial failings.
And to do that without penalising the ratepayers by the proposed 41% rates increase.
We strongly believe increases above rate-pegging IS NOT the answer. A 41% rates increase will merely hide the problems for a while longer.
4 councillors, Jim Simmons, Karen Toms, Margaret McKenna and I, agree on one vital issue – fix the council financial situation without excessive rates increases. We’ve made no other promises, agreements or undertakings to each other. Each of us reserves the right to disagree on any other issue.
These 4 councillors opposed the recent 6.5% increase. 4 in a council of 9 isn’t enough. By one vote. We’ve pushed hard for conservative alternatives to be considered. 5 councillors hell-bent on rates increases, more rates increases, and ‘slug the ratepayer’ have consistently rejected any serious examination of alternatives!
As councillors we don’t need to ‘discover’ the failings. We’ve been told. By the Independent Pricing And Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), by the Office of Local Government (OLG), by NSW Government Treasury Corporation (T-Corp) and by council’s debt management consultant Ernst & Young (E&Y).
The experts tell us council is; Financially weak, financially unsustainable, Not Fit For The Future, Not spending enough on Infrastructure Maintenance, above “Moderate Risk” Debt Range by $15 million to $50 million, and way over the “Conservative” Debt Levels Range by $50million to $75million as reported by E&Y February 2015.
And we’re unnecessarily spending reserve funds on a big new depot.
The experts have told us what to do. We should; spend less, live within our means, spend on maintenance of infrastructure - not new things and, manage the excessive debt.
Financial sustainability without excessive rates increases will need strong leadership by at least 5, preferably 9, councillors.
As a voter you can start the process of building sensible financial control without massive rates rises. You can do that by voting;
Text and cartoon supplied by Andrew Baker

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