Local Candidate – Ian Oxenford

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Ian Oxenford leads the Greens groups in the forthcoming local Council elections. Ian believes Councils are more than just roads, rates and rubbish…

Tell us a little about yourself and why you are running for Councillor? My name is Ian Oxenford, and I’m the main candidate for the Greens team in the coming Council elections. I’m an agricultural scientist and economist by profession. I’ve worked in the area of rural development in the Asia Pacific region for over thirty years, as well as in universities. I now run an organic farm in Kendall. I also started the Camden Haven Anti-fracking Group to fight against coal seam gas mining in our area.

The reason I’m running for Councillor is because Councils are important. They are more than just roads, rates and rubbish. They are the first point of contact between individuals, local communities and governments. Councils represent people at the local level, but they also have a part to play in addressing the bigger issues, such as human-induced climate change and resource depletion. The Greens approach to council is to ‘Think Global, Act Local.’

The other members of our team are also highly qualified in a variety of fields, have diverse life experience and a good understanding of community needs.

Tom Ferrier lives in Lorne and is building an energy-efficient house from recycled timbers. He is a teacher of science, agriculture and environmental studies and an active Landcare member.

Tin Hta Nu, a former university lecturer in agricultural economics, now teaches in Adult Education Colleges. She is well-known in the community for her extensive volunteer work and for the thriving Kendall Global Community Food Garden, which she established.

Drusi Megget is a TAFE teacher in Information Technology, at Wauchope. She is involved in community groups such as Friends of the ABC, Hastings Area Nuclear Free Alliance, Climate Change Australia and Port Macquarie Parents and Citizens.

What are some of your policies leading into the next election?

Residents in this electorate are despondent over their past experiences with Council. We want to restore their faith in good governance, transparency, and prudent financial management.

With three of our members living in the Kendall area, we note there is a strong perception that outlying areas do not receive a fair deal from the Council. To ensure equity of funding, we want to include budgeting at a district level.

We also need genuine community participation in planning and in Council activities – not just a box-ticking exercise by Council officers. Communities like Kendall and Comboyne are role models for community involvement.  We should consider the possibility of reducing the enormous annual labour bill of the Glasshouse, roughly $400,000, with some appropriate volunteering by its supporters.

We need to reduce our communal carbon footprint through better energy efficiency of households and businesses and through building design that uses passive solar and natural ventilation. With all new developments, we would insist on more open spaces for community gardens, for farmers’ markets and for social activities.

We need to produce and sell more local food, and make the most of our agriculturally-rich region. One of the ways to do this is to make it easier for young people to live on the land, rather than driven into cities. We will review building restrictions, so that rural landholders can subdivide appropriate land portions for family members. We need innovative ways to make housing affordable for young families. Australia’s housing affordability is one of the worst in OECD countries, so hopefully our local initiatives will catch on in other communities.

There’s a general feeling that our excessive health, safety, and business regulations are stifling local initiative. We would like to see market outlets enhanced by reviewing these Council regulations.

Other areas we feel very strongly about are health and fitness issues. One way to promote health is to build shared bicycle pathways. We desperately need safe, dedicated lanes for bicyclists, pedestrians and the growing number of older people who use mobility scooters. Bicycle pathways make sense economically and socially. They provide a safe zone for the very young and old to get more exercise. More exercise leads to better health and fitness and lower medical costs. More cyclists and pedestrians mean less cars on the roads. Less cars means less air pollution and less wear and tear of our roads. It’s a win-win situation economically and socially. With the growing incidence of obesity, and soaring fuel prices, shared bicycle/pedestrian pathways are the way to go.

We favour a poll on fluoride, to allow people to have their say. The financially responsible thing to do is include this poll at election time.

We challenge all candidates to declare our region a ‘no coal seam gas’ zone. If we are the ‘food bowl of Asia’, then we need to protect our water and agricultural land. This industry has become the scourge of rural communities. The neighbouring regions of Gloucester and Manning are under threat, and we must give them our support.

If you could fix just one pressing issue for the Hastings immediately, what would it be?

Financial responsibility. It’s what led to the downfall of the last Council. We want to install a long-lasting legacy of financial responsibility for this and future Councils.

Sadly, there seems a lot of ‘anti-party’ sentiment. Unlike other parties, the Greens do not have ‘baggage.’ Our core values are transparency, social equity and a balance between economy and environment.

The Greens, as a party, have a statewide support network. We have about 70 Councillors, Mayors and Deputy Mayors on local Councils throughout NSW. Through the ‘web chat’ of these Councillors, the Hastings Greens team has already been able to gain insights into the pitfalls and opportunities of local governments. From fighting a liquor outlet just 100 m from a school in a low socioeconomic area, to protecting Australia’s oldest town square from inappropriate development, these Greens Councillors have been at the forefront of securing good governance for their constituents.

Councils are quite restricted in their powers and often must defer to state authorities for decisions. We have direct contact with Greens Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs), and this avenue can be most useful in bringing about changes beneficial to local government.

What is your overall vision for our area heading towards 2020/2030?

One of managed growth with truly sustainable lifestyles and employment in business, tourism and agriculture. I envisage the growth of local food production, enhanced public transport and energy-efficient affordable housing. For all these reasons, I envisage young people moving to the rural areas, not only retirees.

Do you feel any pressure from the community being the first publicly elected Councillors in almost 6 years?

Not really; we all have extensive work experience and coped with stressful situations. This will be a walk-in-the park compared to tribal fights and rocks flying through windscreens, which I experienced in the New Guinea Highlands.

What’s something our readers don’t know about you?

Just hinted above.

Thanks Ian.

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