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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Two Lismore councillors call it quits

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Councillors Gianpiero Battista and Greg Bennett back row centre, decided to stand aside now rather than wait another 12 months.

Last week Lismore City Council gave their thanks to Councillors Gianpiero Battista and Greg Bennett for their service to the Council and the community.

A council press release said that prior to COVID-19, a number of Councillors had privately indicated that they would not be seeking re-election once their terms finished in September this year.

As a result of COVID-19, the current term of all NSW councils was extended by 12 months.

Councillor Battista and Councillor Bennett decided to stand aside now rather than wait another 12 months.

Councillor Battista, whose resignation is effective as of last Thursday, has served the community as a Councillor for the last 12 years.

Councillor Bennett, whose resignation is effective as of this Thursday,  August 13, has been a councillor for eight years.

Connecting with amazing people in the community

Mr Battista said one of the highlights of my his 12 years was connecting with amazing people in the community and having had the opportunity to serve as Deputy Mayor in 2016.

He said dealing with the eclectic range or Lismore shire residents was a matter of being able to listen to every view and make decisions based on good information and without political biases.

Mr Battista said that stopping the Special Rate Variation (SRV) was one of his greatest achievement/s. ‘Also, increasing the local content from 10% to 20% for all Council tenders over $150,000, reduction of 20 % in CBD rates, and support for NORPA, Art Gallery and The Museum.’

Mr Battista said being able to represent ratepayers is one of the things he will miss about being on Council but he is looking forward. ‘I joined Fire and Rescue NSW last year and I am now a retained firefighter and I will be serving my community in this role.’

A big job requiring a lot of different skills

Echonetdaily spoke to Cr Vanessa Ekins, who is a 16 year veteran in her fourth term, about the difficulties of being on a local council. ‘Being a councillor is a big job that requires a lot of different skills,’ she said.

‘It requires a minimum of 15 hours a week, for example, this week I chair floodplain committee meet and have an ordinary meeting – that actual meeting time is six hours but I spend 10 just reading the 4,200 pages of documents, and this doesn’t include responding to emails and phone calls.

‘Committee meetings and other civic commitments interfere with work opportunities – I have casual work as a high school teacher and have refused half my work offers due to council commitments.

Cr Ekins says that when most people are coming home from work, councillors are heading into chambers which takes them away from family and friends. ‘This was particularly hard for me as a single parent.’

Cr Ekins says being on council does have its upside. ‘There are rewards such as having a wholistic view of issues confronting our community and having a say in future planning, and getting access to people and places not usually available in our social sphere. There is also negative trolling – my social media pages are private to avoid the poison.’

Battista and Bennett thanked for leadership

Lismore City Council management and staff wish to thank both Battista and Bennett for their leadership over their years of service and wish them well for the future.

The NSW Government’s Office of Local Government has previously determined that due to COVID-19, no by-elections will be held to replace any councillor who resigns before the rescheduled Council elections on 4 September, 2021.

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