Peninsula’s future needs thought, says mayor

Jane Smith - Mayor of the Central Coast CouncilJane Smith - Mayor of the Central Coast Council

New Central Coast Council mayor Cr Jane Smith has told Peninsula News the future of development on the Peninsula needs a lot of thought.

Ms Smith said the Peninsula was an area earmarked for population growth through infill and medium to high density development but that could not happen without infrastructure improvement. “It is a low lying area and transport in and out really needs a lot of thought if we are going to get more people living in that area,” Cr Smith said. She said she would be looking into the long-standing storm water and flooding issues that plagued the Peninsula. Cr Smith said she would also be calling for a briefing on the Rawson Rd level crossing replacement project which the NSW Government backed out of in 2016. As Mayor, Cr Smith said she would stand for transparency and genuine community involvement.

“Having been involved in the community for 15 to 20 years and an observer of Councils, I have been really concerned about the direction they have been heading in especially in relation to community involvement and consultation. “I want to see council return to being driven by community involvement and representation,” she said. The new Mayor has been involved her community and with environmental activism in her role as the voluntary CEO of the Community Environment Network. Many were subsequently surprised when she secured the mayor’s role with votes from the four Liberal councillors and three independents. Cr Smith said no deals had been done with the Liberal Party or the three independents, Mr Chris Holstein (Gosford West), Mr Greg Best (Budgewoi) and Mr Bruce McLachlan (The Entrance) who voted for her as mayor.

“From my point of view, it was important to try and have an independent in the mayoral position. “I said it was really critical that the 15 councillors work together and so that was one of the things that drove my discussions about how that might work,” she said. “There are no deals at all. “I think other people voted according to their own priorities, their own reasons, but I certainly have not made any commitments to anybody about securing their vote and I think those people who voted for me know me well enough to know what my values and priorities are. “Broadly it comes back to community, residents, ratepayers and community aspirations for the area.

“I think it is really clear most people on the Coast value the natural environment so it is important to protect it,” she said. Cr Smith said the whole new local government area was facing a critical time because the Council was in the process of developing the next 10-year community strategic plan and consolidating the two Local Environmental Plans from the former Gosford and Wyong Councils. “I think we need to again ensure that process protects or looks after the values and we will then be coming up with a new LEP for the Central Coast and that will be effectively rewriting the rules.” Cr Smith said she remained committed to giving the community a vote on whether or not it wanted to keep the amalgamated Central Coast Council or revert to the former Gosford and Wyong Councils. “I am still committed to de-amalgamation vote.

“At some point in the near future, I think there are a number of councillors who want to see some sort of poll on whether they want amalgamation or not. Cr Smith said she was reasonably ambivalent about whether or not the community should back the amalgamation. “I think it has been a difficult process but I think it can work but the community needs to have its say. “Management of a large organisation is not the problem. “I think that what should really be assessed is whether the community feels they have adequate representation.” Her preference would be for a poll on the amalgamation to occur at the same time as the next NSW State Government election.

“If people overwhelmingly say they don’t want the amalgamated council then councillors should consider what the best option is.” Cr Smith has been an active advocate of the former Gosford Council’s Coastal Open Spaces System which has protected the ridge line from development for at least 20 years. She said she would continue to fight for a unique E5 zoning for COSS. Cr Smith said she believed her election as Mayor and the swearing in of all 15 Councillors on the brand new Council represented “a great opportunity for change”. “We have a strong council that will be responsive and I would just ask for the community to be patient, it will take time for the Council to progress some of those issues that we know the community are concern about,” she said.

SOURCE: Interview, 27 Sep 2017 Jane Smith, Central Coast Council Reporter: Jackie Pearson