Councillors settle in for another year

Kiama Councillors 2016-2021, (left to right): Mark Way, Andrew Sloan, Kathy Rice, Neil Reilly, Mark Honey, Mark Westhoff, Warren Steel, Matt Brown and Don Watson

If this was a ‘normal’ year, this edition would be bringing news of the results of the Kiama Council election.

Instead, given the postponement of elections across the State to 4 September 2021, Kiama councillors have had their term extended to a fifth year.

The September meeting will choose a mayor for the next year, and in 2021 councillors will be voted in for a three year term.

We contacted all nine councillors to find out whether they will be running again in 2021, what they are most proud of achieving in their term so far and what they plan to concentrate on in this bonus year.

Of the nine, only four, Councillors Neil Reilly, Kathy Rice, Don Watson and Matt Brown, are definite they are going to stand again.

Three, Mayor Mark Honey and Councillors Warren Steel and Mark Way, remain undecided.

“I am considering standing, but maybe I will be too old,” says Councillor Steel, who has served on Council since 1999, following an earlier stint from 1983-7.

“It is a question I would be more comfortable to answer in nine months’ time,” says the Mayor.

Two councillors, Andrew Sloan and Mark Westhoff, told The Bugle they will not be seeking another term.

Cllr Sloan, the youngest member of Council, will not be standing due to the demands of his work, but will be supporting fellow Green Kathy Rice for re-election.

He says he has taken his responsibilities as a councillor very seriously over the last eight years.

“Being in a position to help people and support community needs and initiatives is a privilege.”

The others echoed this sentiment when asked what is the best thing about being a councillor, with Mayor Honey saying, “The interaction with community members and getting an understanding of their relationship with Council, both good and bad.”

When asked what the challenges of being a councillor were, the responses varied.

Cllrs Rice and Sloan, and Mayor Honey think the biggest challenge in being a councillor is the way the State Government has an increasing role in local government.

Cllr Reilly says it is the need to encourage critical thinking; for Cllr Way it is getting other councillors to support projects and visions, and to “leave personalities and politics out of the equation”.

Cllr Steel says the biggest challenge is, “Convincing some of my fellow councillors to be more creative and think outside the square when coming up with challenges that Council has to consider, such as our Harbour and Jerrara Dam.”

Cllr Brown says it is working with his fellow councillors and the administration of Council.

Cllr Watson sees the ongoing threat of amalgamation as a big challenge, as well as juggling work and Council commitments.

For Councillor Westhoff, “The biggest challenge is getting your head around all aspects of Council – especially the planning issues which are usually very complex and varied.”

Councillors were also asked to participate in an anonymous poll to get their input on three issues.

This showed the average hours the councillors work on Council business varies from 8 to 50, with a mean of around 25 hours.

They were also asked if they believed the current Council reflected the make-up of the LGA.

Two thirds think it doesn’t, given only one woman councillor and most of them being retired.

Cllr Rice is keen to encourage more women to consider running for Council next year.

With regard to Cllr Way’s suggestion that the number of councillors be reduced down to seven, a clear majority are against it.

Here follows the achievements they highlighted from the first four years, and their hopes for this year.

Highlights of the term so far:
Cllr Sloan
Working with community representatives and staff to protect the Pheasant Point and Manning Street Heritage Precincts was a real highlight. Other important outcomes included measures to reduce Council’s energy costs and carbon footprint (see page 3) and the Minnamurra Bike Skills Park.
Cllr Steel
At last after almost 10 years of battling, achieving the construction of the Thunda Steps (stairs linking the Boneyard to Bombo Quarry), and his board roles in the Blue Haven Bonaira development and the Destination Kiama success.
Mayor Honey
The delivery of the Blue Haven Bonaira facility and the renovation of Barroul House, the largest single local government building project at the time in Australia; the emphasis on strategic planning; our commitment to the Cities Power Partnership.
Cllr Reilly
Maintaining the charactor of the town – achieved the Pheasant Point Heritage District and initiated the Town Centre Study; elevating the role of precincts – attending all meetings at all precincts, prooving their benefit to Council and utilising their local knowledge; establishing a Public Art Acquisition Fund in the budget – culture is crucial for our future.
Cllr Way
Minnamurra Quarry Bike Skills Facility; Whale Watching Platform Minnamurra headland; Dog off Leash at south end of Jones Beach Kiama Downs. Representing community on several committees. Refer to http://www.markway.net.au
Cllr Rice
Always being well prepared for meetings and understanding the business at hand; initiating a policy to improve responsiveness to community communications; focusing attention on the climate emergency and requesting mitigation actions be highlighted; beginning a process that will involve community consultation on Kiama’s holiday rental operations.
Cllr Brown
The biggest achievement has just happened – getting together with a group of people who want to do something to create a stronger community to help prevent youth suicides. Before this, the progress of Destination Kiama – as this is all about our economy and giving people purpose, jobs and hope.
Cllr Westhoff
Working as a team member to enhance and improve our LGA, eg. Blue Haven redevelopment, strategic planning projects, the Harbour revitalisation, GLAM, the Cities Power Partnership, and our Kiama Coast Holiday Parks.
Cllr Watson
The quick and effective way that Council responded to the threat of COVID-19; trying to look at DAs based on the facts, rather than letting personalities become involved; and on a personal note, meeting the Governor-General.

Hopes for the coming year:
Cllr Sloan
I am very keen to strengthen the governance of Council and leave it in the best organisational and financial state possible for the next council.
Cllr Steel
In this coming year, he hopes to identify suitable land for an industrial estate and four star hotel, and also fulfill the promise he made at the last election to deliver a second supermarket in the Kiama CBD with additional parking.
Mayor Honey
A consolidation of the planning that has gone on over the past four years. Continuation of the upgrading of Council facilities.
Cllr Reilly
Improved harmony between staff, councillors and community. We must work, not in locked step, but in agreement with the other. Foremost, we work for the community not they for us.
Cllr Way
Minnamurra Boardwalk; Jamberoo cycleway; walking track from Gerringong to Gerroa; Jerrara Eco resort; Kiama Bends Cycleway access; Jones and Werri Beach vegetation; Kiama Harbour revitalisation input; Jamberoo dog off leash area.
Cllr Rice
To work closely with community and Council so Kiama’s natural, built and indigenous heritage is respected better in development controls.
Cllr Brown
Strengthening Kiama as a community and ensuring that we are Fit for the Future, so we are not amalgamated. Continuing to solve long standing issues.
Cllr Westhoff
Continued work on our strategic planning projects, such as the Town Centre, the Harbour, Crown Land Plans of Management etc.
Cllr Watson
Making sure that Council is financially stable and remains in a position to address residents’ concerns. Other councils are already facing problems.

Note: word limits were applied to answers

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