Mayoral candidate, local businessman and returned serviceman Keith Wilkinson talks with FOCUS about how his vision for the future is not just his, but the vision for the whole community.
Tell us a little about yourself.
What can I say – I love the Hastings. I have holidayed, lived and worked (including owning several small businesses) within the Hastings for around 40 years. So I know about the region, its history, troubles and pleasures. I have seen it grow into a safe and prosperous place to live and raise our children, and I want to keep it that way.
I have an extensive background and experience within the Human Services Industry across Federal, State and Local Governments and private enterprise. This includes Strategic Planning, Community Development, Business and Financial Analysis and Marketing and Public Affairs within Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Education and Training, Defence, Energy, Veteran’s Affairs and Special Events arenas. I have also worked within the areas of Youth, Aged and Disabled.
Within Defence, I hold a commission within the Army Reserve and have completed 2 tours to Iraq and East Timor.
In Iraq, I developed Strategic Communications which involved developing strong relationships between the Multi-National Forces – South East Region (MNF-SE) and the Australian Contingent (AMTG 1&2) and the Provincial Council, Local Governor and Tribal Sheiks and the local Iraqi media in the Al Muthanna region.
As the Defence Public Affairs Officer in Timor Leste, I worked closely with the Timorese Government, United Nations, NGOs, Aide Agencies, church leaders and the local Timorese media.
Why are you running for the office of Mayor?
Unfortunately, over the years I have seen some horrific decisions made within Council, and the community has suffered from appalling mismanagement and the effects of political parties. Several people approached me before the 2004 elections and asked me to run for Council. At the time, I was heavily involved in some large projects and could not devote the time necessary to do the job properly.
As a returned serviceman, I have seen first hand what poor government can do a nation and its people, but I didn’t have to travel overseas to see what poor government has done to the Hastings and its residents.
Having said that, I would urge the community to think twice about voting for a political party (PP) at the next elections. There are 8 seats on Council plus the Mayoral position, and a PP consists of four members. This equates to a PP controlling approx. 50% of the vote on an issue.
I have been asked what my political affiliations are, and I can categorically state that I have none. I don’t even categorise myself as an Independent, because the perception within the electorate is that even Independents can form alliances.
If elected, I will consider myself a representative of the community – their voice on Council.
So, why I am I running for Mayor?
1. I feel with my background and experience I can make a real positive contribution to the future prosperity, with sustainable development across the Hastings for all residents, with better roads, services and facilities.
2. I want to ensure that the residents of the Hastings have a voice on Council and a say in the future development of their community.
3. I want to keep political parties out of local government. The good old bad days are gone.
What are some of your policies leading into the next election?
As Mayor, I would firstly ensure that the Council is totally open and transparent in its management and day to day operations. This will require a strategy to ensure that Council consults more frequently and broadly with the community, so that residents’ thoughts and concerns are taken into account.
Secondly, as Mayor, I would ensure that I and my Councillors were representatives of the whole community and that resources are shared fairly across the Hastings.
Thirdly, we all need to start thinking strategically and laterally to maintain a strong and buoyant budget for Council and reduce financial wastage and debt. This means we need to find better ways to fund development projects and maintain our extensive road systems. This means working co-operatively and closely with our Federal and State Government representatives and the Mid North Coast Group of Councils.
We cannot continue to put pressure on our residents by constantly raising rates to fund the next project. It has to be understood that Financial Management goes beyond the expenditure of the budget and acquisition of grants. It also extends to the realm of cost analysis of the operation via Strategic Cost Management (Value Adding and the Value Chain – Cost Drivers).
To sum up: a vote for me is a vote for you and:
1. A voice on Council for all residents;
2. Better roads, services and facilities for all residents;
3. Greater community consultation with a more open and transparent Council;
4. No Political Party Affiliations;
6. A more safer and prosperous community for all;
If you could fix just one pressing issue for the Hastings immediately, what would it be?
Unfortunately, there is not just one project or pressing issue that needs fixing; there are many vital projects and issues that need attention. However, the few that come to mind are:
1. Great community consultation – a voice on Council;
2. Better roads, better roads, and better roads;
3. Tighter and transparent financial management;
4. Sewerage systems for those communities that don’t have one;
6. More cooperation with small business;
7. The upgrade of the Wauchope swimming pool, bringing it into the 21st century;
8. Foreshore protection, especially in the Lake Cathie region.
I also intend to work very closely with our Federal and State Government representatives to address many of the issues that we in the Port Macquarie-Hasting region are facing.
What is you overall vision for our area heading towards 2020/2030?
It’s not my vision; it would be the vision of the whole community. As Mayor, I would ensure that the vision of all the residents of the Hastings was realised.
I would encourage all residents to become familiar with the Council’s Community Strategic Plan, because this is the blueprint for the region’s development and growth over the next 20 years. However, the Strategic Plan can and should be reassessed and adopted to take in new and emerging needs and priorities as according to the residents of the Hastings.
As Mayor, I will ensure that all of the community has every opportunity to be involved in the review of the Council’s Community Strategic Plan, as well as ensuring that Council will listen to the thoughts, needs and wants of the community.
What’s something our readers don’t know about you?
As a keen sportsman; I have a ‘Can D’ attitude. I have played A Grade tennis and squash and enjoy white-water rafting and abseiling. I hold a 3rd Dan (Sandan) Black Belt in Karate. I lived and trained in a Dojo in Malaysia as the personal student of Grandmaster Chew Choo Soot. My sporting life reflects my approach, dedication and focus within my professional life.