Jeff is another contender stepping up to the plate and seeking endorsement from the community in the upcoming local government elections. He shares his vision for the new look Council and highlights the issues he would like to see Council direct its attention to.
Tell us a little about yourself and why you are running for Council.
I am 24 years of age. I was born in Port Macquarie and grew up on a property in Pembrooke, between Telegraph Point and Wauchope. I went through my schooling at Telegraph Point Public School and St Josephs High School. I live in Bonny Hills with my wonderful wife, Anna.
In 2009, I gained a degree in urban planning with the University of New England.
Throughout 2010 I worked as a teachers’ aide at Wauchope Public School. At the beginning of 2011, I took up a position as the tutor and Study Centre Supervisor at MacKillop Senior College. I also occasionally work as a farm hand at Ricardoes during some school holiday periods.
I am a member of Port Macquarie Lions, and I am currently involved with attempts to establish a local Leos Club, the youth arm of Lions.
I’m standing for Council, having been motivated by personal experiences as a local and as somebody with some fresh ideas and innovations. I take great pride in our community, and I would consider service on Council to be an opportunity to be a voice for the community and a chance to take part in processes that have the ability to better the lives of our people. I am also running for the opportunity to contribute to a restoration of confidence amongst the populace in their Council.
What are some of your policies leading into the election?
Given that we’ll have been without an elected Council for about 4 ½ years, I feel that it will be vitally important to restore credibility and purpose in local government. I would like to see the ethos of Council restored, whereby the community can say with confidence that the Council is their Council, their voice and their representatives.
I’d like to see Council play a greater role in improving the array of options available to school leavers, in terms of higher education, training etc. Whether it be an expansion of our TAFE-University campus or, eventually, a stand-alone university, I believe there could be a link formed between the skills we have in our local industries and higher learning/training; for example, tertiary courses in tourism, viticulture, agriculture, marine science etc. – this plays to our local strengths. Through lobbying the higher levels of government and communicating with various institutions about what we have to offer, we could really get proactive in nurturing education and learning in the Port Macquarie-Hastings, building on the great secondary schools we have.
I think that the next Council should work towards facilitating a more united and cohesive local government area, interacting with our many towns and villages.
I would also like to see Council work closely with local business and build on existing relationships, to bring about greater awareness and promotion of local products and services. I would like to see Council build on events such as Tastings of the Hastings and project local wares to locals and visitors alike, assisting the local economy in the process.
I am interested in local government doing more for people with disabilities, in terms of improved infrastructure and other services. I would be interested in Council carrying out an audit of the area’s infrastructure to see what is available in terms of ramps, footpaths, tactile ground surface indicators (TGSIs) etc.
I also support working with neighbouring Councils where it can be of benefit to our community – this approach may also improve the voice local government has relative to the ear of the state government.
Overall, my ideas and approaches are centred on us having inclusive, inspiring and meaningful local government.
If you could fix just one pressing issue for the Hastings immediately, what would it be?
I would say the first thing that comes to mind would be improving the state of local infrastructure such as roads, bridges, footpaths etc. This issue impacts on so many locals – and a good number on a daily basis. This is the preliminary step – followed by the step involving the long-term vision for the region. Many pressing issues will be influenced by the election of Councillors, I feel, and many processes could benefit from locally-elected representatives.
What is you overall vision for our area heading towards 2020/2030?
I would like to see the Port Macquarie-Hastings be in a position where we don’t lose so many of our best and brightest. Whether it be academics, skilled tradesmen or artists, we lose so many talented individuals to other towns and cities. I want Council to get behind an initiative to establish an effective learning and education stronghold. With strong tourism trade here and a bolstered educational presence, we could thrive even more than is presently the case, no matter what the season. Our potential is great and our talents many. I want a community that appeals to current and coming generations. I want a deep talent pool for the Port-Hastings.
I would also like to see the area return to the family-friendly days of yesteryear, where we had a variety of options for kids in particular, with attractions such as Fantasy Glades, Peppermint Park and the like (I am heartened to hear news of the re-emergence of Fantasy Glades). Growing up, places like those mentioned held fond memories for me, and they are the sort of community assets that are likely to see locals’ enjoyment increase and visitor numbers increase, thus benefiting the local economy.
Do you feel any pressure from the community at the possibility of being one of the first publicly elected Councillors in almost 5 years?
Much of the community will be eager to see the new Council hit the ground running and meet objectives, quite understandably, but I haven’t felt any pressure and I am most appreciative of the support that I have received.
My candidacy has been in play for about two years already, and I have really enjoyed communicating with various people and groups. It’s been an exciting journey, and I look forward to the next 14 months of campaigning. I’m enjoying the work involved, and I am excited about what lies ahead. No doubt there will be big tasks awaiting the next Council, but there are also big opportunities and I feel that, if I am granted the privilege of representing the Port Macquarie-Hastings, I have the energy, enthusiasm and fresh thinking to meet any challenge and advocate any opportunity for the community.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I was terribly afraid of public speaking until about the age of 17, when I decided to go for school captain; this meant the necessity of getting up in front of the whole school and giving a speech. As insignificant as it may seem in the big scheme of things, it gave me confidence in myself and what I was doing and showed me how I could meet daunting challenges. Although at the time I felt like I’d been ‘thrown in the deep end’, it actually helped me in terms of approaching something head-on. I feel that this personal lesson has stayed with me and thanks to that experience, I believe I am better equipped to confidently tackle challenging situations.