Gary Chestnut runs for council

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Former Gosford Council employee Mr Gary Chestnut will lead the Central Coast New Independents group in the Gosford West Ward in the council elections.

Mr Chestnut’s running mates in the Gosford West Ward will be Ms Lisa Wriley and Ms Jean MacLeod. The lead candidate in Gosford East will be Community Environment Network chief Ms Jane Smith, along with Mr Mitchell Lawler and Ms Sue Chidgey. “I worked for Council for 25 years and enjoyed making a difference for people and for the community I live in,” Mr Chestnut said. Mr Chestnut held the positions of town planner, environment officer, head of the council’s environment department, which he built from scratch, and development manager. He has also completed a Bachelor of Natural Resources, a Science Masters, a Legal Studies Degree and a Masters of Business Administration. Mr Chestnut successfully challenged his 2014 dismissal from Gosford Council in the NSW Industrial Commission and received monetary compensation. He now works as a full-time carer.

“I would love to share my corporate knowledge of council with the other councillors if elected,” Mr Chestnut said. “Over the years there have been senior managers who have treated council as their own little fiefdom and kept the councillors in the dark. “They would not lie but they wouldn’t give their whole knowledge to the councillors so they could make fully informed decisions on behalf of the community,” he said. The Peninsula’s flooding issues, caused by inadequate drainage, would be one of the major issues he would fight for within the new council, if elected, Mr Chestnut said. “The community put forward its concerns about local flooding and the council ignored it,” he said.

“I know flooding is a major issue for the Peninsula because it is built on a sand plain. “When it was first developed most of the blocks contained single residential dwellings and the water drained into the sand. “Then when the zoning was changed to permit residential fl at buildings, there was no drainage system in place and no Section 94 developer contributions put in place to solve the drainage issues while developments were being built. “If you look at old aerial photos of the area you will see that it was a series of sand dunes so in some places the houses are lower than the roads. “It also had a natural creek system that drained from the west to the east but then council allowed the Everglades golf course and covered that creek replacing it with a man-made creek [Everglades Main Drain] that runs to the north so the entire drainage system on the Peninsula has been corrupted,” he said.

“There is an engineering solution that could be used to solve the problem but it would have to be recognised as a regional project to allow the implementation of a drainage design for the whole Peninsula,” he said. Mr Chestnut said retrofitting the Peninsula with the drainage system it needed would be far more expensive than having put Section 94 contributions in place and doing the work upfront. “It would need council, state and federal funding but if other areas of the Central Coast get regional projects the Peninsula needs its flooding issue to have that status,” he said. Mr Chestnut said another issue he would work on if elected was the combination of worsening erosion on the Peninsula’s beaches but a build-up of sediment in the Brisbane Water channel. Mr Chestnut said, as a Gosford Council employee, he had worked on the first coastal erosion plan for the area and the first plan of management for Brisbane Water.

“I understand the science but now we need to fi nd practical solutions,” he said. He said he also wanted to make sure that, given a high percentage of the population of the Gosford West Ward was concentrated on the Woy Woy Peninsula, it should receive an adequate share of the new Council’s expenditure, on a per capital basis. “At the end of this administration period, my skill set means I can challenge what has been forward during the period when there have been no elected councillors,” he said. For example, he said even state signifi cant projects only required 25 objections before they were referred to the Minister for Planning but the new Central Coast Council under Administration had declared that only those DAs with 50 or more substantial objections would be referred to Council.

“Here we have an administrator who considers himself more important than a Minister,” he said. “The new councillors will need to question what has been put in place and then benchmark those decisions against what has been applied in other local government areas,” he said. Mr Chestnut said he urged residents, when voting to “look at my skills and the other candidates skills and select those who will best represent the needs of the community. “I look forward to working with Liberal, Labor and independent candidates to do what is best for the community because I have seen the destruction caused when councillors look after their own self-interests instead of the community,” he said.

SOURCE: Interview, 20 Jul 2017 Gary Chestnut, Central Coast New Independents Reporter: Jackie Pearson