Future councillor’s role will be more demanding than ever

It’s less than nine months before the voters of the Central Coast go to a council election.

Arguably this will be the most important election in the region’s history. The election of the 15 councillors from five wards will undoubtedly shape the culture, economy and identity of the Central Coast for decades to come. To be very clear, the amalgamation of Gosford and Wyong will not be reversed, for better or for worse.

The fact remains that the controlling groupings of the last two Councils voted to voluntarily merge, despite considerable opposition in the community and by opposition councillors. Since May, the two Councils have been under administration by the NSW government appointed Administrator, Mr Reynolds. He alone has been our entire Council, with the full power to pass or rescind anything in his remit. Understandably for many, it appears Council is going too slowly with re-zonings, large DAs and investments.

Though to be fair, Mr Reynolds has been focussed on the mechanics of merging two large and complex organisations, nothing to be sneezed at, I’m sure. The Administrator’s conservative approach will, in effect, defer many decisions to the elected Council. I believe the rationale for his reasoning in this regard is sound. It is after-all for elected representatives to make the big, hard decisions on behalf of Central Coast locals.

It now falls on all residents to become active and create a regional vision we can all be proud of. This should mean serious policy debates, good suggestions and encouraging quality local candidates to stand for this, our first regional super Council. Make no mistake, the job of the new councillors will be very demanding, as they will be expected to make tough decisions that will affect the direction of growth and the quality of our prized lifestyle.

With so much at stake, the public scrutiny of Council decisions will be much greater than ever before. Yesteryear’s approach to local government will not suffice. It’s going to be demanding, as the stakes are so much higher. In effect, the newly elected Council will be our local parliament, governing over an area comparable to the ACT with a population comparable to Tasmania or the NT.

The councillors will, as a result, need to work harder than most, probably putting in very long hours and having to grapple with complex decisions on behalf of tens of thousands of residents. At this stage it is unclear how future councillors will be able to financially manage such a large work load. The State Government has not released the updated council remuneration packages for these ‘super councils’.

Hopefully sensible decisions are made in this regard, otherwise skilled family people will be unable to consider standing for civic duty. To my mind, without high quality policy discussions around transport, employment, education, development, investment and culture, we will become subsumed by the metropolitan chaos that is Sydney. We will in effect become an overflow suburban dumping ground for poor decisions made in Sydney.

Make no mistake, this process of metropolisation has already begun. The greater Sydney Commission has its eyes on the Central Coast, it could easily override a weak, divided Council and mandate massive inappropriate changes to the region. I’d like to encourage civic, community and business groups, progress associations, schools and clubs to start talking about inspired policies that can contribute to our future. Write to this and other media outlets and discuss. In the old words of the American Independence movement, we can metaphorically “Unite or Die”, the choice is ours.

Email, Jan 24, 2017 David Abrahams, Hardys Bay