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Byron Shire
January 31, 2023

Cr Neil Marks: ‘The work of Councillors and Council is so important’

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The 2021 NSW Local Government elections will be held on Saturday, 04 December, 2021. Candidates have until noon on Wednesday, November 3 to register with the NSW Electoral Commission.

The Echo is inviting all of the Lismore mayoral candidates to a photoshoot and to answer the same 20 questions.

Lismore Councillor Neil Marks. Photo Tree Faerie

Cr Neil Marks is an independent candidate running for Mayor and he has already served on Council for 13 years.

1. What are your intentions and hopes for the December election and beyond?

First up to survive as elections can be gruelling to say the least. Also, to bring as many members of my team onto Council as possible.

What we hope to do is bring about some positive change and growth in the area.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the Lismore LGA going forward?

Money, or the lack of it. We have an ever-growing list of assets that get paid for by grants but take Councils own diminishing money to maintain and eventually replace.

This situation has been coming for years but we have reached a peak situation that needs to be dealt with now. We need to get both the State and Federal governments on board as this is a situation that has come about over generations and is beyond Council’s ability to repair.

3. What do you personally see as the most popular decision of this council?

To continue to work with developers to produce blocks for urban and rural growth.

When I originally came to Council it was on the back of growth and since then we have been able to increase the amount of residential land available after many years of a stalemate situation.

4. What do you personally see as the most unpopular decision of this council?

Not following through on the above at times.

This frustrates those looking for blocks to build on and those wanting to supply them.

This also frustrates many in the business world because they know that more homes and happy families is good for business.

5. What’s been frustrating, and why?

Not being able to deliver at times what you believe is good for the community. It is frustrating when you can see a reasonable solution to  a situation and others are not willing to compromise and just give a blunt NO. That is an easy option to take whereas working with all interested parties takes a bit of effort, effort some are not willing to take.

6. What could Council do better?

Communicate. As an organisation it does some amazing work but fails to get the story out strongly enough to get past the naysayers in the community.

7. Are you interested in representing Lismore on Rous CC?

Yes I have always aspired to be an LCC representative on Rous, but those positions only go to those on the majority side of Council, one of which I have not been.

8. What is your view on the Dunoon/Channon dam?

It is no secret that I have been a supporter of continuing investigation into a dam at Dunoon. It has many benefits to the long-term water security of our expanding region.

9. How do you see Council’s relationship with the business community?

At times fractured as it is sometimes within the business community. Council has a part to play in the continuing revitalisation of the CBD especially but cannot forget about the industrial and manufacturing areas of the LGA along with our strong agricultural sector.

It must be able to navigate a path ensuring that all areas are brought along for the ride. Communication is key.

10. What do feel is the best way to deal with the issue of flooding?

Lismore floods and always will so better preparedness for the inevitable next event is the key to surviving such things.

Making sure those who are to be most affected are aware and to be ready when the time comes.

Modifications to our levee system can be made but eventually mother nature will give us more water than we can handle so being aware and prepared is the best we can be.

11. Why did you originally decide to get involved with local government?

As mentioned previously it was the lack of growth and housing opportunity that got me looking to run for Council. In particular the McLean’s Ridges development that was faltering due to the antics of some of the councillors at the time. We eventually got the thing moving in the early stages of my first term and now many people call it home.

12. How do you feel about that decision now?

Great, and I wish there were more positive stories like that to tell.

There are more development areas now than we have made for many years, but we can always do better.

13. Do you have any political ambitions beyond local government?

Before Council I had a tilt at Federal preselection after the retirement of Ian Causley. I did well but not well enough. Now it is Council matters in my heart.

14. How do you feel the Lismore LGA is coping with COVID?

As a community, I think we have done really well but as we come out of this nightmare we need to show our support for those truly local businesses that have managed to hang on by hard work and determination.

15. Do you feel Council is doing enough to support Indigenous residents?

I have been lucky to be the chair of the Aboriginal Advisory Group that assists Council. This has been an amazing learning experience for me personally and for that opportunity I will be forever grateful.

Council does its best to engage with the local Aboriginal community on so many levels but as in everything in life we can always do better.

As they have taught me “lets just keep talking and eventually we will all understand each other”

16. What is your favourite pizza topping?

Sun-dried tomatoes

17. What do you see as the highlights of Council since the last election?

This is a tough one for me personally as it has been an extremely frustrating term.

Ultimately it would have been the ability to work with all areas of the community through the floods, fires and Covid19 situations. Our ability to continually work as an organisation for the betterment of the community and to be agile enough to work in these difficult situations.

18. What do you see as the low point of Council since the last election?

The lack of trust between Councillors and between Councillors and Staff and visa versa.

The work of Councillors and Council is so important and if there is no trust it makes the job almost impossible to do.

We can all disagree, but we need to trust that we are all doing our best for the community.

19. In one sentence, why should people vote for you/ what do you bring to the table that the others don’t?

In my time on Council, I have never been on the majority side, so I have had to learn with all sides of the Council makeup. In doing this you can lobby for change and progress where you see it needed and can hopefully bring others along with you. Even those who don’t agree will always understand and respect where you are coming from.

This is a skill that is needed by all good leaders and one that will be needed by the next Mayor in asking the State and Federal governments for the true assistance we need.

20. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Councils’ financial situation needs dramatic attention and soon this is the area of most concern. It will take someone with immense skill as a leader to get the attention of the other levels of Government to get the help we need and deserve.

We as a community can only do so much ourselves and we need to show that we are doing that to make others aware that we are all in this together.

Fixing an old bridge or road is as sexy as opening a new and shiny facility and means more to our community at this time.


 

The Echo will publish profiles of all the Lismore Mayoral candidates in the coming weeks.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. To my way of thinking from the answers Mark is a non-descript, average, generalised, vague but not that vague, middle-road, broad-landscape type councillor.

    • actually if you look at the Lismore app where he bloggs for his family friend Simon Mumford regularly he states he is a member of the Nats but is not paid up!

  2. Why not ask the following questions which in my view are the most important. I want a councillor I can look up to and hold in high regard even though I may not agree with all their policies I want to know that the person is able to make rational unbiased decisions. Lets face it we will never win every argument but we need rational thinkers making decisions. So I suggest you ask

    1. do you understand the need to have unbiased decision making?
    2. Do you know what that means?
    3. Can you understand complex law?
    4. Do you understand you may be personally liable?
    5 Do you understand you are not there to rubber stamp recommendations by staff but have an obligation to ensure the decision making is sound and based upon the law?
    6. What is a conflict of interest?
    7. are you capable to understand when a conflict has arisen?
    8. What would you do if you were conflicted?
    9. What are your views regarding transparency in decision making?

    Reply

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