Service to our local councils

  • September 5, 2017

Mr Speaker

This coming Saturday, residents across many areas in Sydney will be voting in local government elections. I encourage local residents to ensure they participate in the elections of the four councils that have their homes in my electorate: Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove, North Sydney and Willoughby. Voting is compulsory, but more importantly, it is the opportunity for residents to elect the councillors and mayors who will lead our local communities for the next four years.

In Lane Cove and Hunter’s Hill, the Liberal Party is supporting endorsed candidates. Lane Cove Council has been so ably led by Liberal mayor Deborah Hutchens, and the Liberal team on council has worked successfully to improve services and amenities in the municipality.

In Hunter’s Hill, the Liberal team is being led by Councillor Zac Miles. Councillor Miles brings both youthful energy and incredible experience, and I know he would make a fine mayor of one of Sydney’s oldest municipalities.

The elections are occurring following what has been an extensive community debate about the shape of the councils in Sydney. I have always been opposed to forced council amalgamations. Councils serve as centres of our community, and their boundaries often reflect natural communities of interest. They provide democracy at a very local level.

I therefore welcome the New South Wales government’s decision not to proceed with further council amalgamations. In the lead-up to the council elections, I know there have been some who have been seeking to create mischief and to misrepresent the position of the New South Wales government.

The fact is that the Berejiklian government has made clear that further forced amalgamations will not happen. It is a policy that is dead and buried, and possibly even cremated. Premier Berejiklian has made that clear as recently as Friday, when she said: ‘There will be no more forced council amalgamations.

The elections are very much focused on who will serve during the next term of our councils. Tonight, however, I want to spend a moment recording my appreciation to those councillors who are not recontesting.

As a former North Sydney councillor, I understand the extraordinary commitment given by those who serve as councillors. The role is essentially voluntary, apart from a modest stipend. This is something many do not realise. Even mayors are not paid to work full-time.

Yet good councillors effectively make themselves available seven days a week, assisting their constituents and attending the many meetings and community events that councillors are expected to participate in.

Across my four councils, 10 councillors are retiring. In Hunter’s Hill, Richard Quinn, Meredith Sheil, Peter Astridge and Gary Bird are retiring. I pay tribute to their work on behalf of Hunter’s Hill residents.

I particularly want to acknowledge Richard Quinn, who retires as mayor. Councillor Quinn succeeded the legendary Sue Hoopman as mayor, and it has been a great pleasure to work closely with him through a range of community events and projects, from funding for sporting grounds through to the council’s fight against amalgamations. Councillor Quinn has been a great advocate for Hunter’s Hill and I wish him well for the future.

In Lane Cove, two Liberal councillors are not seeking re-election: Soo-Tee Cheong and David Karpin. Both have been diligent councillors working to represent residents of their wards. They have contributed greatly to the success of council.

In Willoughby, councillors John Hooper and Mandy Stevens are retiring. Councillor Hooper has been an active member of the Willoughby community for many years, and he has consistently worked to ensure the transparency and financial responsibility of council, and an improved planning system.

Councillor Stevens has served on Willoughby City Council for an incredible 20 years, and is well known among the many communities she has supported. Her service was appropriately recognised by the New South Wales Local Government Association earlier this year, and I was honoured to be present at council for the presentation of her outstanding service award by the Mayor of Willoughby, Gail Giles-Gidney.

In North Sydney, Councillors Veronique Marchandeau and Virginia Bevan are concluding their terms. I had the pleasure of serving with both of them on council during a time when North Sydney councillors worked well together. Councillor Bevan was first elected in 2004 and she has been a forthright member of the council, never afraid to express her views or stand up for residents. She’s gone through her own battle with breast cancer, and she turned adversity into action with her phenomenal effort to raise funds for the Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation.

Councillor Marchandeau has served on North Sydney Council for almost 20 years. It would be hard to find a councillor who has been more thorough and diligent in her work, both at council meetings or through the many committees of council on which she has served. I doubt, for example, any member of the traffic committee has her depth of experience.

I wish all of the retiring councillors well and, on behalf of the broader community, I convey my appreciation for their service. They deserve our thanks.