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Byron Shire
June 9, 2023

Election 2023 – Clarence: Nicki Levi

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Independent Nicola Levi is running for the seat of Clarence. Photo supplied

Independent Nicola Levi is running for the seat of Clarence in the upcoming NSW election. As a former teacher and Education and Training coordinator Nicki believes that Independent representation for the seat is essential to get the best outcomes for Clarence’s constituents considering the corrupt history of the Liberal, National and Labor parties in NSW. 

What is your big number one issue that you’re looking at going into this election?

There are so many big number 1 issues, but I guess ultimately they all come back to genuine, considerate and well-informed representation.

I don’t feel that the representation we currently have in the NSW State Parliament is effective at all. I believe we need a representative who actually represents the people of the electorate of Clarence, not one who functions through the filter of a political party.

I have supported all major parties in the past (as an educator, as an environmentalist, and as a farmer) including having provided years, worth of strong support to the National Party through volunteering in Kevin Hogan’s office weekly and having handed out ‘How to Votes’ for both Kevin and Chris Gulaptis for many years. 

However, I believe that independence from any political party is increasingly important as the parties are increasingly manipulated and controlled by lobby groups who donate to the parties and who have huge influence because of that.

I do not accept political donations as I believe it simply leads to undue influence and corruption.

What is your background – what did you study or train for? What skills do you bring to this?

I am highly qualified as an Educator. I completed a Diploma of Teaching in 1981; and soon after converted to a Bachelor of Education: K-6. I have an Honours Masters Degree by research and coursework entirely taken in Special Education – this qualifies me the areas of Learning Support, Special and Inclusive Education from Kindergarten to Year 12. I also completed an externally marked thesis for this award which was conferred in 1998. I am also qualified in Adult Education with a Cert IV Training and Assessment. 

I am qualified and experienced in teaching at all levels in public and private, city and rural settings. I have been a tenured academic at University of Western Sydney teaching in General and Inclusive Education for eight years. I have been the director of three small companies and am still the director of one.

I have worked in nine correctional settings across NSW, in both city and rural areas. These include Broken Hill, Ivanhoe, Kirkconnell (outside Bathurst), Long Bay in Eastern Sydney, The Induna Education and Training Unit at Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre, Balund – a Second Chance Facility at Tabulam, Community Corrections from Taree to Lismore, the old Grafton Gaol and the new Clarence Correctional Centre.

My husband and I currently have a macadamia farm at South Arm (near Maclean.)

I also operate a native bee business which is partly to serve the pollination of the macadamias, but I do also propagate native bee hives for sale.

What is your current job?

I was working at the Clarence Correctional Centre as the Education and Training Co-ordinator until 17 February, 2023 when I was sacked by the General Manager Tony Voss.

I am concerned about very dangerous public roads, and about a Change of Use at the Clarence Correctional Centre from the original Development Consent Approval for: 1,000 Maximum Security Men; 400 Hundred Minimum Security Men; and 300 Maximum Security Women – to ‘no women’.

The Development Consent which involved a great deal of community consultation has then been changed without any community consultation whatsoever. This means that there is nowhere to rehabilitate and reintegrate our often highly traumatised women between Kempsey and the Queensland Border.

Most will be far south, such as at Silverwater.

It also leaves the Clarence Correctional Centre free to take in a much more hard-core group of inmates (for which it is said by some that more money may be obtained, per inmate). As a community member, I am concerned that this can mean that we have more drug dealers, more paedophiles and other hard-core criminals and their associates in our community. It is terribly concerning as it can happen very quickly.

It is patently obvious that there are drugs going into the correctional centre and this appears strongly to be enabled by some staff. With all the technology at the Clarence Correctional Centre, they are not able to keep drugs out of the centre. 

I was staggered that the level of acceptance of drug traffic in the centre could be so blasé. It is also evident from comments made by my colleagues about people being affected by drugs whilst in classes and that ‘acceptance’ of drug use in the centre is widespread amongst staff. Case notes of inmates also indicate that inmates have become addicted whilst incarcerated. This is terribly concerning because someone who is addicted could be very easily manipulated for sex, and for a range of other activities which they would not normally engage if they had not become addicted whilst incarcerated. Then they are just blamed for more crime. It’s a very vicious cycle that is being engineered by the very people who are paid to stop all this.

There are also other matters which I have raised which, along with raising issues related to drug use in the centre. I have raised the issue of bullying in the centre of myself and others. I have raised this at every level available to me. Many of Serco’s managers have been trained overseas and in other states and seem to not be aware of the strength of our NSW legislation.

I am also concerned about overlap between correctional facility workers and the legal profession with regard to access to inmate files and possible conflicts of interest.

So, more to come on your question of ‘What is your current job?’ I am hoping to be elected to parliament so that I can address these issues before they become a festering, out of control cancer in our communities.

Why is it important to you that you’re in Parliament?

I really don’t believe constituents of Clarence are well served by Members of Parliament who are also members of political parties.

If I am elected, I can represent the constituents without having to go through the filter of the party room.

I can advocate for any issue that seems important to me. No-one can tell me, ‘It might damage the party’ if you say that. It is very, very important to me to be able to represent the constituents honestly. I am certain that we do not now have independent representation. Our Members of Parliament are only allowed to say and do, what their party allows them to say and do.

Looking New South Wales Parliament at the moment what is the thing that frustrates you the most?

The thing that frustrates me the most is the time that is wasted by people who are paid approximately $170,000 a year to work for the taxpayer, but who sit in parliament and have sparring matches, seemingly for fun.

Our politicians need to be responsible and get on with the job of representation and legislation to protect what we have in this amazing place where we live.

We will soon lose it to developers, drug dealers and other criminals if we do not lift our game right now! 

We cannot sit back and be complacent. We cannot rely on the parties any more.

We have seen the corruption in the Labor Party with the likes of Eddie Obeid.

We have seen corruption in the Liberal party with pork barrelling and other biased practices.

I cannot support the Greens, even though I believe they do a lot of good work; their position on Cannabis is untenable to me.

Having worked in so many correctional settings at so many levels I can see the effects of cannabis use on people of all ages including on people from early childhood who have sat in smoke filled rooms all their lives.

In short, anxiety, psychosis and schizophrenia (in particular hearing voices) are all blatantly screaming at me, not to legalise cannabis for anything other than very limited, prescribed medical purposes (such as for seizures).

I do believe that there may be some value in highly controlled distribution of properly chemically analysed substances, as we could at least then conduct thorough research on the effects of substance use. However, as it is generally not ethical to conduct research on human subjects when the research project itself may (and probably would be) damaging to at least some people, then I would have trouble approving this also.

I do not believe it is a valid argument to say that alcohol is worse. There are many problems with alcohol abuse. We cannot be accepting substance abuse as an excuse for more substance abuse. To approve the use of cannabis tells young people that it is okay and relatively safe. Clearly, in my view, it is not.

Do you support building on floodplains?

Generally speaking, yes I do, but with some qualification.

Floodplains are a rich source of a lot of things, especially food.

Having said that, we need to acknowledge that the area is currently flooding more seriously and more frequently and we need to adjust and be prepared for that.

Climate change is of course making a big difference in a lot of areas and there are some areas which we will have to pull back from which are simply no longer suitable for residential use. These areas may still be suitable for tourism. Many tourist parks have typically been built in flood plains. In general, those of us who live in floodplains accept that periodically we will have flooding and restricted access to some areas.

In most cases in the Northern Rivers, flood waters rise slowly and fall relatively quickly because of our proximity to the sea, although this can be affected by tides.

As is currently being discussed, we do need to look at more effective monitoring of floods and getting information out to communities more reliably so that people can take appropriate action sooner rather than later.

How would you address the issue of legacy floodplain approvals (developments that have been approved but not yet built, that are on floodplains)?

I think this matter will address itself over time. If developments have been approved there is not too much that can be done about that. However, it will not be possible to obtain insurance for most development in floodplains so common sense will probably, eventually prevail.

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?

Probably not, but I would listen to all sides on an issue like this.

Essentially, my belief is that people have purchased properties and use them as was permissible when they purchased them. You cannot force people to provide housing if they wish to use the accommodation for tourism. There are other ways to address housing issues.

Farms in NSW have recently been approved for agri-tourism accommodation. In areas which are well out of flood, this accommodation capacity could become small residential housing for singles (similar to the concept of Tiny Houses.)

I have friends who currently live in their cars. There are a lot of people who live in houses who don’t really need to live in 2-3 bedroom houses and who don’t want the expense. With self-contained options increasing; solar power; composting toilets etc. We should re-think housing options for singles at least.

I think there are lots of ways we can achieve more flexibility in the housing situation. It is essential that we think more laterally about this now. It can be a win, win for everyone. We don’t have to go with the push of big developers all the time. There are many more simple solutions out there that people don’t think of because it doesn’t serve big business to think outside the square and think on a smaller scale.

We need to look at opportunities which are becoming available due to changes in demographics and changes in technology. 

Farms have land and they need income. In the same way as NSW has opened up farm land for tourism, we could open up farm land for housing. Uncomplicated approvals for say, two moveable dwellings or houses built to specification per farm in NSW, would go a long way towards solving so many issues.

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  1. Perhaps as part of your stance. You could raise the issues of the lack of reasonable nbn internet in our regions. I’m in Grafton & its atrocious. I pay the same as I did in Sydney. My download/ browsing speed of approximately 15% of what I had in Sydney. NBN / government is robbing us blind. They upgrade city/ suburbs to very high speed 1000mbs. While doing nothing for regional areas. The latest con is to try & sell you on a 5g connection. I barely get 4g. This is critical


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