Neglect of community infrastructure is feeding growing calls for the introduction of a ward system for Tweed Shire Council, but that won’t fix the problem, according to a candidate in the upcoming poll.
Community independent Michael McNamara has weighed into the debate on the ward system of voter representation, following calls by other candidates recently for them to be introduced.
Mr McNamara also says the Tweed doesn’t need to increase its councillors from seven to nine, which voters will be asked as part of the 29 October poll.
The calls, he says, don’t provide the answers to ‘what has gone so wrong in Tweed Shire Council’ as ‘people see neglect in their local area and assume that the money is being spent somewhere else’.
‘In Tweed they think that the coast gets it all, on the coast they think that Murwillumbah gets it all, and in Murwillumbah they think that Tweed Heads reaps the benefits,’ he said.
‘A ward system of councillors won’t fix these issues.
‘Current councillors live at Banora Point, Carool, Kingscliff, Murwillumbah, Uki and Fernvale. This gives reasonable local access for all residents to a councillor who lives near them, or in a situation like they do.’
‘This means we already have a de-facto ward system and that has not helped us. A formalised system of wards will not guarantee any change,’ Mr McNamara said.
Tweed Heads high-school teacher Kaye Sharples, who narrowly missed out on election to Tweed Shire Council four years ago, is leading a group aiming as their priority to establish a ward system for the 2020 election, dividing the shire into three geographical wards with three councillors elected to each.
Mrs Sharples said this would ‘allow more effective representation of people’s interests in their particular ward… people want to know and develop relationships with their local councillors’.
But Mr McNamara says ‘across the shire, communities are crying out for their local issues to be addressed in an open and transparent way’.
He singled out the Anchorage Islands at Tweed Heads where a popular boardwalk has been closed down for safety reasons due to its deterioration, a lack of play areas in Bilambil Heights, lack of shade for play areas at Casuarina; and adequate footpaths at Tyalgum in the western Tweed Valley as part of a ‘pattern of neglect’.
‘People see neglect in their local area and assume that the money is being spent somewhere else.
Mr McNamara also recalled council’s sacking in 2005 after an inquiry which found the councillor majority were the ‘puppets of developers’.
He said ‘nine councillors also won’t fix it’.
‘When the Tweed Shire Council, under then mayor Cr Warren Polglase, was sacked in 2005, it had 11 councillors… bigger is not necessarily better.
‘Councillors are elected to show community leadership, but sadly, with very few exceptions, the current crop seem to be more focused on grandstanding and personality politics instead of looking after the real needs of local communities.
‘They are more focused on rail trails and major developments rather than local community needs like public walkways, children’s playgrounds, adequate roads and footpaths.
‘It is time to bring back a sense of community to the Tweed, it is time for the seven elected councillors to work together to meet the needs of our communities across the Tweed shire.
‘The only thing that will fix the problem is for the voters of the Tweed shire to put the right people into council and to hold them accountable’.
‘We need a progressive council that is focussed on the needs of ratepayers and residents rather than developers. We need to elect councillors who will defend the values that brought us here and keep us here. We need to elect councillors who see “community” as important, as the first and major stakeholders.’