Ms Kate da Costa of Umina will stand as the Greens candidate for the West Gosford Ward in the council elections.
She said she wanted Central Coast Council to deliver better community consultation, better public transport, better solutions to sea level rise and better town planning.
She said the first thing she would work to change if elected to the council would be the ward system. The Woy Woy Peninsula is part of the Gosford West Ward which also includes the Hawkesbury River towns of Spencer and Gunderman and the rural areas around Mangrove Mountain, most of Gosford CBD and some of Narara. The northern boundary of the Gosford West Ward is at Bucketty. “The Greens are not convinced the ward system will give what people need. “What you will get is a fight between the three councillors who represent Gosford West and the three who represent the Budgewoi Ward, for instance,” Ms da Costa said. “It will not lead to a proper recognition of where resources should be spent,” she said. “Councillors who are elected to a ward will pay attention to the needs of that ward but they also have an influence over the whole local government area. “We would like to see better, embedded community consultation processes,” she said.
Ms da Costa said she would like to see precinct committees established where councillors and senior Council staff members were required to attend meetings and the precinct committees’ opinions were sought and structured in to the decision-making process. Before any proposal relating to the Peninsula could be voted on by Council, for example, its precinct committee would need to be consulted and its report would be required to be tabled and considered as part of the process that informed council’s decision making, she said. “The Peninsula is the size of a large country town which would have a council of its own. “We rarely had councillors who came from the Peninsula,” she said of the representatives on the former Gosford Council. According to Ms da Costa, the concentration of the population of the Gosford West Ward on the Peninsula, should ensure it has at least one local representative elected to the new council.
“But a councillor from the Peninsula would still have no procedural power to represent the interests of any particular community, there is nothing mandated in place to determine the interface between the councillors from a ward and the larger Central Coast Council,” she said. “In terms of restoring our local government democracy, precinct committees for all major areas should be built in to the decision making from the beginning,” she said. Ms da Costa, who was a community member of the Heritage Committee, said she considered the committees of the former Gosford Council “a joke”. “We met once every two months and that was far too often for council staff,” she said. Gosford Council did not act upon any of the decisions made by the Heritage Committee until the minutes had been ratifi ed at a council meeting and, according to Ms da Costa, that could take up to four months.
On one occasion, she said, minutes were altered and it was “never made clear” who was responsible for attempting to change the record of what occurred at the Heritage Committee meeting. “As a process, those committees were pretty ordinary,” she said. Ms da Costa said she believed the newly-elected council would also need to review its meeting practices to facilitate more community participation. She said she would like to see no limits on the number of residents who could speak for or against an agenda item. Holding meetings on weekends when people would be available to attend was also something she would favour if elected. Ms da Costa also questioned the role of the recently-appointed Central Coast CoordinatorGeneral, Ms Lee Shearer.
“Why go through the whole process of monstering two councils to amalgamate so the planning would be more streamlined and then appoint a coordinatorgeneral? “Can’t we be trusted to make decisions for ourselves?” she said. “The community needs to understand that in order to ensure the State Government doesn’t get a ‘rubber stamp’ council, it needs to elect a broad range of representatives.” Ms da Costa said the general emphasis, at both local and state level, was “still too road focused”. She would aim to change the way the NSW Government funded bus services to have a combination of charges based on passenger numbers and distances travelled to ensure a better range of services between the Peninsula and “work hubs”.
Utilising existing community and club shuttle bus services to run scheduled services with stops close to people’s homes would also work on the Peninsula, she said. The utility bike plan completed but not implemented by Gosford Council in 2014 should also be put into action, Ms da Costa said. “The Peninsula, because it is fl at, could be set up so would could use its laneways and secondary streets to set up bike streets,” she said. More transparency around costing infrastructure projects would also be something Ms da Costa would argue for if elected to Central Coast Council.
“Why did it cost $6 million to build the Woy Woy pedestrian underpass that no-one uses?” she said. “Did they gold plate the concrete? “I understand commercial in confi dence during the tender process but once the contract is signed there is no need for commercial in confi dence and as a rate payer I want to know what I am paying for a bag of concrete. “If a contractor or a department within the Council repairs a road and pot holes appear again within 12 months there should be consequences,” she said. She wants to see a total cultural change within Central Coast Council to leave behind what she said was the existing “culture of secrecy, closed books and harassing of citizens who ask questions”.
Source: Interview, 18 Jul 2017 Kate da Costa, Central Coast Greens Reporter: Jackie Pearson