Council election candidates clear cobwebs for meeting
CLARENCE Valley Council election candidates have cleared the cobwebs as the prepare for Thursday's meet the candidates meeting in Maclean.
Almost all of the 21 candidates made their first public pitches to the community at the first meet the candidates night at Lawrence Golf Club on Tuesday night, organised by the Clarence Business Enterprise Advisory Service.
Eighteen candidates took to the lectern and two who couldn't be there, Marty Wells and Debra Novak, sent in video clips instead. Only Arthur Lysaught, who is out of the country, did not have a say.
The first candidates' night was like a dressed rehearsal for the rest of the campaign.
There was only a small public turnout, but candidates were able to iron out their presentations.
The election candidates have revealed an appetite for change.
A consistent theme was opposition to any rate rises over the rate pegging limit, as the previous council proposed with its attempts to implement a special rate variation.
Incumbent Andrew Baker made a plea to voters to support him and other current councillors Jim Simmons, Karen Toms and Margaret McKenna because of their consistent opposition to "slugging the ratepayers".
While there were admissions that rate rises may be necessary, candidates floated a number of ideas for alternative sources of revenue to pay down debt and maintain council assets.
Lanitza candidate Peta Rogers said her initial motivation to run for council came when she inquired about the rating structure.
"The answer went something along the lines of 'that's just the way it is love'," she said. "Not really an acceptable answer in anyone's world."
The third speaker, John Hagger, said council had more than 1000 unused properties which could be sold off to pay down the debt before there was a need for a rates hike.
Gumbaingyrr man Brett Tibbetts opened his address with a welcome to country given in his native tongue.
As a manager of a cattle station near Dalmorton as well as sitting on a number of Aboriginal boards, he believed he would bring a wide range of experience to the council.
He sees a big future for the Clarence Valley as a producer of organic agricultural produce to a market looking for more and more clean, green food sources.
Other speakers, like Maclean's Ian Saunders called for audits of the council's finances. He favoured an internal audit over external audits, as it traces the presence of cash in each council fund.
Richie Williamson said representing the area he loves is a privilege. He said the future is bright for the Clarence with the Valley on the verge of the of biggest single investment in the Clarence's history.
He his priorities for the next four years was road funding, environmental sustainability, a review of tourism, a review of the council's economic development plan and meeting the State Government's Fit for the Future benchmarks.
There were also a few surprises, including Grafton candidate Keith Bates' call for councils to de-amalgamate.
He said there needed to be three councils in the Clarence Valley in Maclean, Yamba and Grafton, offering smaller, more personalised local government.