No sooner will the dust have settled on the Federal election than candidates for the local election will be vying for voters’ attention.
The news that Kiama Local Government Area is heading to the ballot box on 10 September is an aftershock of the decision not to proceed with the merger.
Had the merger with Shoalhaven happened, then the election would not have been until September 2017.
With only nine weeks until nominations for the election close (a month out from polling day), there is still some indecision from current councillors about whether they will run again.
It is also expected the emphasis placed on the importance of local government during the anti-amalgamation campaign will have the effect of encouraging new people to stand.
Warren Steel has been on Council for twenty years, but is still considering his position. “Six months ago I was definite that I wasn’t going to stand, but I’ve been humbled by the support I’ve received encouraging me to keep at it. At this stage no, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.
“At 77 I’m starting to feel old, but I’m also fired up by the disgraceful way we were treated during the amalgamation process.”
The other elder statesman on Council, Mayor Brian Petschler, says he is still undecided and is talking to other potential group members before making his decision. “Despite the recent pressures, I am still enjoying the role, so it is a toss up,” he says.
Neil Reilly will be standing for a third term at Council, but says if he gets in it will be his last. “I have a number of things I want to achieve, and then I’ll call it a day,” he says.
“I think it is very healthy to have a turnover of councillors as it brings in fresh ideas.
“I encourage people to think about nominating. It is rewarding work, not only participating in decision making but helping individuals in their interactions with Council.”
He says the last six months has been very difficult as councillors and staff have been distracted by the amalgamation.
Kathy Rice is “most likely” to run again, but says it is too early to say as she doesn’t know who else might emerge to run on the Greens ticket. However, as the only female councillor, she is adamant about the need for more diversity within the Council.
“A number of very good women were nominated last time, but none of us were placed first on the group listings. Until that happens, we’ll continue to get male dominated councils.”
Half-jokingly, she says that maybe the women should unite under the one ticket to increase their chances of getting in.
Mark Honey and Andrew Sloan are definitely planning to run again.
“I’ve got some unfinished business I want to attend to, including the Kiama town centre planning strategy and issues around the future development of Jamberoo and Gerringong,” says Councillor Honey.
Councillor Sloan says, “Whilst I’ve found it frustrating and difficult at times, it has been a very worthwhile thing to do.
“The core reason why I nominated last time was to do my bit to protect our unique rural character, and that is still under siege from the State Government as they continue to try and dis-empower local communities.”
Dennis Seage announced his intention not to stand again after criticism of his comments on ANZAC Day.
“Since then I have been approached by numerous people who asked me to stand again,” he says.
“I have promised to give it a great deal of thought while I’m on holiday, but I doubt that I will stand.”
Mark Way intends to run again as he believes he has strong support from within the community and there are lots of projects that he would like to see get going.
Gavin McClure says he is keen to run again but he hasn’t decided 100 per cent, “I am talking to like-minded people to gauge their interest in getting involved.”
He says that it is disappointing residents are going to have to vote for the third time in five months, and believes the council election should have been held off until March next year.
Council is to hold at least one candidate workshop in July, in conjunction with Local Government NSW.
At time of going to print the dates were not yet set, so interested parties should contact Council for details.