The period leading up to your appointment on Tuesday, and the sacking of Shelley Oldham as GM, has been a fractious time at council. What are the key elements about your life and upbringing in Lismore that drive you to represent the city and its environs? Was there a key moment that persuaded you to run for mayor?
I have spent most of my life living in farming communities, so I value fresh, local produce and understand the effects of weather and seasonal variations in supply. Our farmers are aging and there seems to be a trend toward converting the family farm into housing developments. Some people argue this is because the farms are no longer viable, but I see a new generation of farmers enthusiastically embracing biodiversity, landscape rehydration and value adding to produce. To have a say in protecting farmland from urban sprawl, I was motivated to join councils rural residential settlement committee which identified areas for future housing. How we use our land and protect our resources will determine how our city and villages and farms and forests and rivers survive. A sign we are on the right track is the success of our produce markets.
How did you view Isaac's departure as an opportunity to precipitate the changes needed at council? There will obviously be some challenges ahead as mayor in creating stability with the departure of both Isaac and Shelley. How do you intend on working with the council's new GM?
The last two years have been very difficult for council staff, councillors and the community, with a series of natural disasters and financial struggles. The resignation of the previous Mayor was an opportunity most councillors acted upon and I take the role seriously. It was so good to see each other face to face and have the public join us for the meeting. Councillors are determined to work together on our budget and long term financial plan.
At the beginning of Shelley Oldham's tenure as GM she uncovered a $6 million hole in the council's balance sheet. What is the status quo of the council's financial situation?
Councils financial situation continues to be challenging like most councils in the NSW. The state government devolves responsibility for services such as roads to councils without adequate funding so we need to continue lobbying for a fair share. For example councils maintain 70% of the nations road network yet receive 3% of the funds needed. Each council pays a levy to the state government for every tonne of waste put into landfill, Lismore paid $13million over the last two years. Waste management is expensive and, as a community. Everything we use can be reused in some form.
Are you setting short term goals between now and the elections, or will you be putting plans in place for beyond that?
Council is preparing the 2021 to 2022 financial year budget in line with our Delivery Plan. We are also working on waste and to modernise our internal finance and reporting systems. I am particularly interested in two grant funded projects, working with farmers on rehydrating farmland by retaining water in the upper catchments, and modelling how slowing the flow of water through the catchment can reduce flooding. Implementing these projects is an investment opportunity for the region and will mitigate the effects of climate change.
Apart from bringing harmony to the council. What is your vision for the Lismore region over the next 2-3 years? Are there any developments you are particularly excited about?
I love living in Lismore and want to protect the things that are important to us, such as our diverse environment, economy and people. We also need to prepare for the challenges of the future, our aging population, less rainfall, more intense storms, hotter temperatures. We can do this by ensuring every home has rainwater tanks and solar panels, because our centralised water and power systems are susceptible to storm events. We need to build smaller, more energy efficient homes within our existing urban area and villages and save our rural area for farming and bushland. Our service economy of medicine, law and education is in demand and we already export our environmental services and agricultural produce. Our future is positive and instead of just responding to housing demand from the coast we can progress our agricultural sector and produce. Forests and farmland, this is our past and our future.