An independent's day

What do you see as the main challenges for the year ahead?

There are three major items in the coming 12 months that are of great importance to our area: the Strathfield Town Centre Project, release of the Local Environment Plan (LEP) and getting Strathfield a fully functioning police station.

I’m also passionate about cycling, and plan to raise the idea of introducing bike lanes. I’m not proposing to close roads but for there to be markings to indicate possible bike routes in the area.

There has been some concern about amalgamations recently. Where do you stand on the issue of amalgamating councils in the inner west?

I’m proud to be a Strathfield resident and the worst thing for this area would be an amalgamation. Strathfield has a strong identity and any amalgamation would not be in our community’s best interests.

We’ve seen examples in Victoria and Queensland where amalgamations haven’t worked, which is proof that this is not a road we should be going down.

The debate also loses sight of the bigger issues facing Sydney, including traffic, land use and population growth.

Do you believe the state government has adequately addressed Strathfield’s problems with transport, population, planning and infrastructure? And if not, how do you intend to press for resources to solve these problems?

These are problems that are not unique to Strathfield but to Sydney in general. Therefore, we need to address these collaboratively with neighbouring councils and the state government.

I’m optimistic these things can be resolved – we have a new state government and a very enthusiastic new MP in Charles Casuscelli. Charles has already proposed an inner-west forum to address these issues and we will be actively involved in this.

Will you be pushing for the town centre plan to be accepted by the state government for fast tracking, and if so what exactly will you be doing to persuade it?

Deputy Mayor Cr Bill Carney has been working hard to get the project off the ground and it is my intention to offer him my full support to make this a reality.

What we are proposing offers a solution to traffic issues in the town centre, which has a flow-on effect on surrounding roads. Add to that Strathfield station is the third-busiest in Sydney and you can see why this project is extremely important to not just Strathfield but to Sydney as well.

We continue to discuss the project with the government, but we already know we have the support of Charles Casuscelli, so we are optimistic about receiving state government support.

Strathfield does appear to have a crime problem – the municipality is number one in robbery from individuals in NSW. Do you believe the municipality is adequately policed, and do we need our own police station?

I have long been a supporter of a 24-hour police station in Strathfield. We have 10,700 people using Strathfield station each day and we need more than a part-time shopfront.

We also need to see increased police visibility around the town centre – I’d like to see police on bikes patrolling our area.

Recently, planning laws were returned to the council. Do you see any changes in council policy under your leadership? And are you satisfied with the progress of the LEP?

This council wants to see good-quality development that’s not oversized and not ugly. Our
soon-to-be-released LEP will address how we plan to provide a balance between residential, commercial and industrial development, as well as how we manage heritage and open space.

But overall, there will be no major changes as a result of the return
of planning powers to councils.
We view it more as back to business as usual.

A plan called “Brand Strathfield” is designed to raise the profile of the area. Do you feel Strathfield has been reticent to push its virtues in the past, and do you intend to change that?

I believe that in local government circles Strathfield is well respected. I know when I go to conferences and see councillors and staff from other councils, that is certainly the case.

We are one of the most financially sustainable councils in the state. Numerous private reports are telling everyone exactly that.

In saying that, council’s profile is steadily lifting – our events are getting bigger and are targeted at attracting not only residents but visitors to our area, and our publications, such as the Strathfield Good Food Guide, are aimed at doing the same.

The council has suggested a plan to increase participation in the democratic process. In the lead-up to next year’s council elections, how do you see yourself guiding the residents of Strathfield towards more participation?

We’ve got two major community engagement projects that we’re about to embark upon for the LEP and the new Community Strategic Plan, which will replace Vision 2020.

Particularly in the case of the Community Strategic Plan, this needs to be driven by the community themselves, and council will conduct an extensive community engagement process to find out from the community what their vision for Strathfield is for the next 10 years and beyond.

It has been suggested that councillors’ fees are inadequate to compensate them for the hours worked. Do you agree, and are you concerned about attracting the best talent to council under the current payments system?

A balance has to be struck between attracting those that are passionate about serving their community, but making it financially possible for as many people as possible. A lot of those people that are passionate are young people and women, but unfortunately they are currently under-represented.

This was one of the issues raised at the recent Destination 2036 conference and I hope the state government takes note.

If there were just one change you could make in the next 12 months, what would it be?

It’s only an idea at this point in time, and something I have to discuss, but I want to see bike lanes on our roads. Not like the City of Sydney, where they have closed off roads, but markings as an indicator, so people know where they can ride around the area.

There are more pushbikes sold in the country than there are cars. It’s a health issue – it’s a good way of getting out there and leaving the car at home. It’s great for families.


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