Mayoral candidate Adam Roberts rolls his sleeves up to discuss his ideas and vision for the future of the Port Macquarie-Hastings area. If elected, the status quo might just have to change …
You announced your intentions of running for Councillor in August 2010 and more recently as a mayoral candidate. What makes you believe that you’re up to the task of leading the Port Macquarie-Hastings community?
I believe that right now, our region could benefit from a fresh approach, some youth and enthusiasm for the task ahead. I’m an individual with a diverse background, people skills and a desire to work hard to achieve positive results in any project I take on.
I’m the type of person that if I’m in charge and the chips are down, I put my hand up and take responsibility for the situation, and the buck certainly stops with me. I hate excuses and have little tolerance for inefficiency. When I look at the work that needs to be done in rebuilding a vibrant and thriving region, I truly get excited about how many opportunities there are to make changes for the better. I know how to lobby hard and have a great understanding of the local area, having grown up here.
I’ve been privately preparing for this opportunity for more than four years and if I’m given the opportunity, I would make the role my full-time priority.
What are some tangible changes you would like to see implemented to improve the outlook for residents of the Hastings?
I’d like Council to adopt a strategy of prioritising beautification works across the region. This would include a focus on parks and gardens, and most importantly, road maintenance and infrastructure. Like most residents, I am saddened to see this once beautiful region on the ‘visual’ slide.
Dare I say it, I’d also like to see Council take a more proactive approach to working with developers to kick-start the building industry here locally, which would certainly go a long way to breathing some life into our local economy.
On the subject of local economy, we still have a predominantly tourism and retail heavy focused region, which I’d like to see re-dressed to be more balanced, with industry that is less susceptible to volatile peaks and troughs.
Having been in business in the region over the last ten years myself, I know that when retail is slow and it’s not holiday season, the place just grinds to a halt economically. By attracting and fostering new industries unrelated to tourism and retail, over time, we’ll be able to stabilise the peaks and troughs and eliminate the volatility in the local economy.
What would you do to address the poor financial situation of our Council?
Comparatively speaking, our Council’s financial position is better than some of its close neighbours, but certainly could be better. After years of rate pegging and cost shifting from other levels of government, it’s no wonder the finances are in a tough position. Granted, waiting around for the other levels of government to come to the party and give more in support shouldn’t be all that is done to address the issues, but I would suggest hard lobbying in this regard is still one important avenue.
Another option would be undertaking a line by line audit of all of Council’s current services, assessing their value to the community and quite possibly winding back and/or consolidating departments and functions to free up funds and redistribute personnel to areas of greater priority.
Do you think cutting services is the best approach to cost savings? Isn’t that just a continuation of a previous attempt at a ‘back to basics’ approach?
I hate the term ‘back to basics’, as it insinuates that one is simply cutting services to suit a budgetary outcome. My suggestion is that after the ‘audit’ of current services is completed, resources are reallocated across the organisation, to ensure adequate funding or personnel are distributed to priority and core services areas. How this is managed is the responsibility of the General Manager, but the Councillors must make it clear that this is what they are asking for – not simply reducing the budgets of the current departments.
I acknowledge that it’s not the role of the Mayor or Councillors to interfere with the day to day operations of Council, but they are charged with the responsibility of ensuring resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.
Given your small business background, how are you going to support small business in the region?
Empathy for small business is certainly something that I don’t need to try and formulate. I’ve been there – five times. It’s a very tough, near impossible landscape.
There are so many pitfalls, and it’s like a battleground every day of the week. The best thing that I could do is work hard on initiatives that will bring about a more stable local economy, as suggested before, proactively attracting a more diverse and balanced industry and ensure the region is growing – therefore creating more opportunities for small business to attract custom.
I would also strongly encourage the local business chambers to become more active and relevant within the local business community and take a proactive role in supporting small business. In my view, business bodies need to step up and support their small business community more now, than ever before.
If you could implement one idea that would have an immediate positive impact on the local economy, what would it be and how would you fund it?
On a recent trip to the United States, I saw first hand the benefit of world-class transportation systems in many cities that we visited.
I would love to see the Camden Haven, Wauchope and Port Macquarie CBD’s linked by a low cost, one dollar fare or similar, ‘express bus’, servicing the route several times per day.
This would have many economic and environmental benefits, not least connecting the region and potentially becoming a great way for tourists to see more of the region. I would suggest a partnership between the local business chambers, Council and the State Government would be required to support the project.
Further, I would also suggest the projects’ economic windfall, particularly to the Wauchope and Camden Haven centres, would far outweigh the minimal costs.
Thank you Adam.
This story was published in issue 77 of Port Macquarie Focus