Dr Leon Ankersmit is running for Labor in the seat of Clarence. After working for 30 years in the community services sector he says it is vital to provide affordable housing.
What is your big number one issue that you’re looking at going into this election?
The biggest issue for our region is housing. Housing cost is the main driver of cost of living pressure, and housing supply is under great pressure especially now that so many dwellings are uninhabitable following the floods.
A related factor is the availability of tradespeople to build and repair homes. We have lost 60,000 trade apprenticeships during the past ten years in NSW and we are now seeing the effect of having ignored the warning signs for a decade because we simply do not have enough workers to address the housing crisis.
What is your background – what did you study or train for? What skills do you bring to this?
I have 30 years of work experience in the Community Services Sector. Most recently I was the CEO of Anglicare North Coast. My training is in social sciences with a focus on Government Policy and I have a PhD the same field with a special focus on forging partnerships where there is conflict. This provides me with an excellent skillset to represent our electorate as I have dealt with communities and government bodies for many years, and I have specific skills in bringing together people who may not see things the same way.
The electorate of Clarence has great social and economic opportunities as well as some challenges and I want to see our district making the most of the opportunities we have and addressing the challenges so that no-one is left behind. I feel that there is too much conflict in politics and not enough collaboration, and I am the right person to bring a change to this in our electorate.
What is your current job?
I resigned from my role as CEO of Anglicare North Coast in September when I announced my nomination for the seat of Clarence. I have been campaigning full-time since then.
Why is it important to you that you’re in Parliament?
The people of Clarence will benefit greatly from having a local member who is also a member of the government. In 2023, it is quite likely that NSW will elect a Labor Government in NSW and it would be a tragedy if Clarence elected a local member who would simply become an opposition backbencher. As a government member, I will be part of the Labor caucus where important decisions are made, and I will have the opportunity to use my skills and contacts within Labor to achieve the best results for Clarence.
I aspire to be a parliamentary secretary or even minister, and this aspiration motivates me to be an exceptional local member to demonstrate my capabilities and my strong focus on representing my electorate. I do not wish to be a backbencher in opposition as I believe this would be frustrating for myself and for my electorate.
Looking New South Wales Parliament at the moment what is the thing that frustrates you the most?
I have seen a government that for twelve long years has focused on the wrong things. We have seen very poor outcomes for our region following the bushfires and floods and some of these outcomes have resulted from decisions that were made along the way that disadvantaged our region.
Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service control functions have been centralized to the city and local knowledge and input were lost to great detriment. The establishment of Resilience NSW was a good idea but not well executed.
More broadly, we now have unsafe staffing levels in our hospitals and we have a massive teacher shortage in our schools that was predicted more than ten years ago. We have lost 60,000 apprenticeship positions due to funding and resources being taken away from TAFE. All these bad decisions have led to a crisis that is causing much suffering among residents who cannot find or afford somewhere to live, among parents with children at school, patients needing safe health care, and among the essential workers who provide these services at great personal cost.
Do you support building on floodplains?
I do not support further development on floodplains and I think we need a long-term goal to remove flood-prone assets from floodplains over the next few decades. This will require significant forward planning and we need to think beyond the current four-year election cycle to start making smart decisions that will not come back to bite future generations. I am ready to have that conversation with the people of Clarence and the people of NSW.
How would you address the issue of legacy floodplain approvals (developments that have been approved but not yet built, that are on floodplains)?
We need to look at current approvals on a case-by-case basis to see if back-zoning is possible, or if updated development control planning and local environmental planning instruments can be used to provide controls that are up-to-date and future-proof.
Do you consider that the current NSW government’s Short Term Rental Accommodation laws (STRA) has contributed to the current housing crisis and would you advocate for local councils to regain control over STRA?
Yes, I have heard from many people who are concerned about the number of short-term rentals in our coastal towns. I am not sure that giving control back to local councils is the best way to address this issue but I have already discussed the problem with relevant NSW Labor Shadow ministers and I will continue to advocate for a tightening of laws and regulations with the objective of returning more dwelling properties to the long-term rental market.