The Minister for Local Governments, Shelley Hancock, announced in March last year that the 2020 Local Government Elections would be postponed for 12 months due to the pandemic.
The elections were moved to Saturday, 4 September 2021.
"If you have a strong sense of community and are keen to make a difference in your local neighbourhood, then you should consider being a councillor and nominating for the September 4 Local Government Elections," said the Minister in a statement earlier this year.
Registrations are openfor those intending to register their intent to run for candidacy and will be open until Wednesday, 4 August 2021.
There are a number of individuals who have already registered their intent to run for candidacy in the Bega Valley Shire.
On the NSW Electoral commission's (NSWEC) website there are five individuals who have registered to run (their website was last updated on July 7, 2021).
There are also those who have publicly announced they intend to submit their registration in order to run for candidacy.
The formal nomination period opens Monday, July 26, and closes at midday Wednesday, August 4. Candidates can either be nominated by a registered political party, or by two electors enrolled in the local government area.
The following alphabetical list of individuals have either publicly declared their intent to register for candidacy or officially registered their intention to run as a candidate in this year's election.
All those in the community are encouraged to check their electoral enrolment details with the NSWEC. To vote, you must be registered on the electoral role by July 26.
Neil Bourke has registered his intent to run as a candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission.
Three key focus points:
- Represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers
- Provide leadership and guidance to the community
- Facilitate communication between the community and the council
Neil Bourke and his wife settled in the Merimbula community in 2003. Mr Bourke has long worked within the tourism sector.
He and his wife have owned and operated all three different business models Merimbula Beach Cabins, Tuscany Apartments and Southern Comfort Holiday Units.
As a result of his experience as a licensed real estate agent in the Blue Mountains, Neil has been associated with Queensland based Accommodation Business Brokers Pty Ltd.
He assists accommodation business providers in Southern NSW to find new properties or find buyers.
Mr Bourke has been a active member of various community groups. He served as a Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol Merimbula for three years, and has been a member of the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre steering committee.
He has also been a member of the Merimbula and Sapphire Coast Promotions committee for three years, and one of two industry representatives for Sapphire Coast Tourism for three years.
He has been member of the Frogs Hollow Flyers Aero Club for 10 years, and he has supported the Quaama and Candelo Public School P&C Committees in their various endeavours.
He said his desire to stand for Council comes from a belief that BVSC should, "represent the community's demographics, reflect the diverse needs of local residents and be responsive to the wider community and its various areas of interest."
He said that tourism and small retail and service businesses all contribute greatly to a large section of employment opportunities in the local economy and he wants to see that all stakeholders interests are considered.
He also has a big focus for focus on on satisfying expectations of the local rate payers, ensuring that decision making processes are well informed when allocating resources.
"It is important that the efficiency, cost and effectiveness of Council's organisation meet the expectations of the community," he said.
He anticipates a range of challenges for the upcoming Council, "as in most recent times for example the significant impact of natural disasters since 2016 and the pandemic," he said, "which will require strong leadership, strong programs and a fluid approach for reorganisation to ensure the needs of the community are always placed first."
Vivian Harris has publicly announced that she intends to register as a candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission with the Greens alongside a group of other candidates including current Councillor Cathy Griff.
Three key focus points:
- Take direct climate action: education and resilience
- Improve housing affordability
- Eliminate waste
Vivian Harris moved to the Bega Valley three years ago her daughter and granddaughter and purchased a house a year ago. Prior to that she spent fifteen years living in the Macleay Valley, near Kempsey.
Ms Harris trained as a vet but after getting married she stayed at home to raise her five children.
She retrained as a science teacher but drifted into primary school teaching and teacher librarianship. She has been working casually as a teacher for the last eight years.
"Education is very much part of who I am as a person," she said. "I love the thrill of watching a child master reading as much as seeing an adult once they understand the climate emergency become empowered to start looking for solutions."
Ms Harris was involved in getting the Climate Emergency Declaration through Council almost two years ago and on the advisory group for the Bega Valley Climate Resilience Plan.
"This gave me a closer look at the Council and how decisions were being made. Running for the Greens gives me a great set of policies and a wide range of experience to draw upon," she said.
She said that she wanted to be a councillor because, "the next few years are crucial for acting on climate and working on getting infrastructure and management structures in place to protect people as the climate challenges worsen."
"We need to act like it is an emergency instead of letting the Bega Valley Climate Resilience Strategy just become another piece of forgotten paper," she said, "we need to call it what it is - an emergency and make it the basis of all our decisions."
Ms Harris will run as the second candidate for the Greens, along with current councillor Cathy Griff.
In terms of housing she wanted to prioritise low income housing, and housing that, "can remain safe in the predicted climate extremes ahead."
Another key point for her campaign is advocating for better infrastructure that is resilient to natural disasters, following the Black Summer bushfires, "we saw the cascading effects of infrastructure failure," she said.
"We need to plan for worst case scenarios, build in redundancy and plan for other system failure because it will happen again," she said.
She believes these changes will, "make our communities more resilient and also create new, more sustainable, industries and agriculture."
Nathan O'Donnell has registered his intent to run as a candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission.
Three key focus points:
- Support small businesses in the Bega Valley Shire, including our farmers
- Bring financial discipline back to council
- Concentrate on Council's core business of rates, roads and rubbish
Mr O'Donnell moved to Merimbula from Gippsland with his parents in the early 90s and attended Eden High School. He currently lives in Pambula Beach with his wife and children and is a home owner in the area. He has had an active career in the hospitality industry.
In 2019 he and his wife ran a soup kitchen out of the Eden Uniting Church and was well supported by the Eden community. Since the start of the pandemic they have been unable to run the program but are looking at ways to revive it.
"To be a councillor in our shire would be an honour and a privilege," he said, "this community has given me so much over the years. My education, my start in business, and my family. All of this I owe to opportunities presented to me by this community. I want to do what I can to help it move forward."
"We live in the best shire in the best country in the world. Is it perfect? No. If it were perfect it wouldn't be any fun trying to fix things, trying to make them work better and trying to make sure everyone gets a fair go."
Mr O'Donnell believes that small businesses and farmers are the backbone of the region due to a reliance on tourism and one of his key focus points is to help support them.
He said that he is also concerned with bringing financial discipline back to the Council.
"We need to rediscover a respect for ratepayers and tax payers money. Every dollar we spend must be spent with respect. Generally speaking I would seek to bring a conservative approach to fiscal management.
"We must always remember that local council should be about service delivery, so any decisions made around the budget must always be made in a way that does not undermine our ability to deliver the services the community."
He also feels council should focus on their core business of rates, roads and rubbish. He believes in stopping rates from rising and bringing them down in the long-run.
Local roads also need to be addressed, with potholes needing more attention he said.
In terms of rubbish, "a hard rubbish collection service is for me, a priority in addition to ensuring that the FOGO system moves forward in a sustainable way."
David Porter has registered his intent to run as an independent candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission.
Three key focus points:
- Bring sound management and common sense back to council with benchmarking of expenses
- Better manage budgets and respect for the rights of land owners to give the best value to ratepayers
- Create a more efficiently run council as a service organisation to improve finances
Mr Porter's family first built a home in Bega in the early 1950s, when his father was running 2BE radio. He attended school in Sydney but spent holidays in Bega. Throughout his career he has worked with a number of tech companies all over the world, but in 2015 he moved back to care for his parents.
He now lives in Tathra with his wife and children in his original family home but dreams of having farmland within the shire.
After he returned to the shire, he took a part time job as the representative of the Eden Magnet but now operates the systems for the Flexibus Service which operates in Merimbula, Pambula, Tura Beach, Bega and Eden.
His drive to become a councillor comes from his want to improve the community. He said he has had a career based on business management, contractual arrangements and delivering quality- all fitting for a role in the Council.
Through his involvement in the community through lobbying for farmers and land owners with council as a citizen as well as through his NRL community involvement background, he was asked many times about how to improve the Council.
"I realised that my background gave me an excellent foundation to be a councillor and that I could help many people in the community. I am excited by the opportunity to make a difference to people's lives in my home area," he said.
He thinks councillors need corporate experience and believes with the opportunity to select a new CEO, the Council can be, "reengineered a service focused organisation with empowered and accountable staff who can get things done quickly through a system of faster approvals and clearer operating guidelines."
Another of his key priorities is around increasing the respect around the rights of landholders. He said their rights were overstepped in 2013 when the NSW Government gave council a set of tools to help the shire manage its development, "which resulted in over a quarter of privately owned property in the shire being rezoned without the landowners knowledge or consent."
He thinks that the service management of council needs to be improved. He wants to service to better complete projects correctly, on time, and within budget as well as streamlining approvals and creating more, "fairness and transparency for everyone."
Joshua Shoobridge has registered his intent to run as an independent candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission.
Three key focus points:
- Transparency and accountability in Council
- Better community consultation and involvement
- More financial responsibility
Joshua Shoobridge moved to the Valley from Tasmania in 2012 after spending six months here as a missionary for the Latter-day Saints Church. During his time he said he made many friends and met his wife and now lives in Kalaru.
Through his mission work he volunteered at potoroo palace, assisted in house moves, taught religion, assisted with the Family History Centre among other areas in the community.
Throughout his career he was worked in theatre in light and sound operations and in retail communications, however he decided to switch to a more rewarding career as a disability support worker after his first child was born and hearing of the need for more disability support workers.
"I have learnt a lot in disability, compassion and patience being the key things. I feel that sometimes we take for granted the things we are able to do. Things even as simple as accessing a pool to swim, eat or even work.
"I wanted a more rewarding path in life, I kept hearing that the disability sector are screaming for more male workers and thought there is a need here that I can help fill."
Mr Shoobridge said he has always been community minded and that he feels being a councillor would allow him to assist in building on the trust between community and council.
He is also involved with his local AFL team, the Merimbula men's shed, the Evan's park committee, the Merimbula Wargaming Society and Lodge Bega Remembrance.
"Being an independent who has no party lines to follow allows me the ability to vote according to the needs of the community," he said.
Mr Shoobridge thinks council needs to improve their actions to speak on behalf of all the community, "by actually listening and being open to all avenues of solutions."
He said that a key priority for him would be to look at ways services are provided by council and to improve on their effectiveness and efficiency.
He said that is he is elected he will able a motion to have an easy to read copy of the budget and council's financial standings attached to all electronic rates notices as, "transparency will help achieve better decisions when it comes to our finances."
Karen Wright has registered her intent to run as a candidate with the NSW Electoral Commission as an independent in the upcoming elections.
Three key focus points:
- To advocate for youth and families
- Create sustainability in terms of council financial spending as well as the environment
- To build a stronger community
Karen Wright moved to the Bega Valley from Melbourne when she was five years old, and grew up in Wolumla. She attended Bega High School, and chose to stay in the community to raise a family here.
She now lives in South Pambula and said she loves living close to the bush, the beach and farmland.
She has worked in the community services sector for the last seven years, with experience in aged care, disability, mental health, homelessness and foster care.
Ms Wright works as a foster carer assessor, working to place young people in foster care with an appropriate family.
Karen said she was involved with the Youth Council during her teens which instilled a sense of honour and care for the community she lives in.
"I want to be a councillor that is representative of the wider community, taking into account my diversity in terms of ethnic background, age, family make up and community experience," she said.
Ms Wright has been a board member of Sapphire Community Pantry for two years, a volunteer for OzHarvest, president of the Pambula Community Garden and is a member of Bega Valley Suicide Prevention Action Network, and the Social Justice Advocates.
She is a member of Sustainable Water Actions for Merimbula and Pambula (SWAMP) and sits on two sub-committees with Merimbula Chamber of Commerce.
She also sits on the NSW Ministry of Health's Towards Zero Suicides Lived Experience committee.
"There is currently no youth council and no voice for young people within our Council," she said. "I want to see a sustainably funded youth development officer position.
She said the Council should make good sustainable financial decisions through improved community consultation. She said her experience in the community sector, on the a board member of two community organisations and her current undertaking of a business degree puts her in the position to do so.
She also wants to prioritise environmental sustainability through solar investment, protecting the oceans, good waste and recycling initiatives, and by supporting business and community organisations looking to reduce waste.
To create a stronger community she wants to see, "better support for local small businesses, meaningful employment and job creation, opportunities for migrant integration and education, better cultural inclusion, and First Nations consultation."
Other areas such as the arts, upskilling, physical accessibility, affordable housing and support for people fleeing domestic violence are all on her top priority list.
Note: In the coming week, Bega District News will publish an article on whether existing councillors will be running in the upcoming Local Government Election.