05 August 2012

Gosford Council Candidates 2012

The 2012 Gosford City Council elections are just over a month away, and the field is more open than usual with four of the outgoing councillors not standing again. These are interesting times as is often said in politics.

The recent departure of the General Manager Peter Wilson, the forthcoming departure of Terry Thirlwell, Director of Community Services and Organisational Development, some shuffling of chairs in the Planning Department and other changes in Council staffing, point to this as being one of the few moments in local affairs when some changes might be possible, in the direction taken by elected representatives, and the culture within the administrative branch. Many hope this to be the case.

On The Gosford Times blog we will try to provide as much information as possible in the lead-up to the election on the 8th of September, including candidate’s policies and party publicity.

Local newspaper coverage in the past has been less than satisfactory in bringing information needed to make an informed choice, particularly in regard to minor groups and independents. Consequently we invite those who so wish to send material for posting and, within the usual constraints, we will publish same.

To start with, the new grouping of independents consisting of Peter Freewater, Gary Jackson, Ian Sutton, Jake Cassar, Ingrid Hasler, Nikki Freeburn, David Benwell, David Leggett and Kay Williams.

Major Policies of the Central Coast Alliance (From their website)

The Central Coast Alliance Candidates are committed to giving the community a voice, connecting the community, the revitalisation of Gosford CBD, investment in infrastructure and sustainable resource management.

Giving the community a voice - We stand for open, honest governance and we want to ensure the community is well connected and their voices are not only heard bur their values directly influence the actions of Council. This means real consultation that educates and informs so as to create a level playing field for input into Council's decision-making processes.

Connecting Community - We'll be involving local business in community development, supporting opportunities for Men's Sheds, Community Gardens and other social networks that bring our seniors and youth together to promote harmony and respect in our community. We see our schools as focal points for the community and opportunities for us to engage in a variety of community based projects. We will be supporting existing community based groups such as sporting clubs, RSL's, progress associations, Surf Life Saving, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Masonic groups Scouts, Guides, musical and theatrical societies, etc. These community groups that are usually made up of selfless volunteers often form the backbone of community and are the glue that can bind us together for the prosperity of all. We will be engaging with these groups and looking for opportunities to add value to the important contributions they already make.

Revitalisation of Gosford CBD - We will revitalise Gosford and see the city return to the thriving metropolis it once was. The waterfront can be developed to promote tourism without the loss of community access and amenity. There has always been a strong interest in a marina development and we will allow this to happen. We will provide the incentives for more retail shops, live entertainment venues and restaurants around the marina. We will encourage a variety of accommodation developments including backpackers to bring visitors of all ages. We will provide incentives for a range of tourism ventures across the greater Gosford region. We have a great wealth of natural and cultural heritage that can be used to make Gosford a hub for both international visitors and weekenders from Sydney and Newcastle. We will bring back Old Sydney Town or if that's not entirely possible we can create something very similar right in the heart of Gosford, perhaps with a maritime theme. We will have historic walks that celebrate our rich colonial beginnings and our indigenous past. We will support festivals like the Flora Festival, the Oyster Festival, music and multicultural festivals. We will bring people to our parks for open-air markets and carnivals. With our beautiful waterways and forests, Gosford is primed for a range of passive or adventure style eco-tourism attractions and we will provide seed funding to see local initiatives get started. We want to make Gosford a vibrant place where young and old want to be and where jobs for our kids can be sustained long into the future.

Investment in Infrastructure - Gosford Council has billions of dollars in liquid assets. We are not in debt, we are not 'cash strapped'; we have billions available in cash investments that can be drawn upon at short notice. This is our money that is supposed to be spent on fixing roads, curb and guttering and other essential services. We will access this money and reinvest it in these essential community services. In doing so we will create other employment opportunities. We will support local businesses and smarten up our streetscapes. We will provide confidence for investors and developers and support these initiatives with the road networks and the other vital services that Councils are supposed to provide. Yes, we have to spend a little money to make money, but we will do it prudently with sound economic advice from financial experts. We will look to Wyong Council for further opportunities to share services and reduce the costs to both Councils.
Sustainable Natural Resource Management - We will ensure that our wildlife reserves and waterways are protected for the economic and social benefits they provide and ensure they remain intact for the continued prosperity of future generations. This will be achieved by the appropriate planning controls and tougher legislation. We will refuse development consent that threatens rare or endangered species and will lobby State Government to stop inappropriate mining on the Central Coast. We will protect our water supply, our farms and our community from the mining industries and excessive extraction of our ground water.

A statement incorporating the agenda’s of 10 independents will always be general and lack details about specific measures to be pursued to achieve the outcomes outlined.

It is good to see recognition of the needs of the farming community of the Mangrove Mountain Districts, the importance of a strong and connected community with REAL engagement in direction setting, and the significance of heritage and identity as a foundation for economic vitality.

However when reading their plans for a revitalised, vibrant, thriving Gosford metropolis (one assumes no irony intended) I felt a lack of coherence, due perhaps from the Alliance wanting to meet some of the objectives of the unsatisfactory Waterfront proposal as well as a plethora of heritage and other desires of the community ignored by the current plan.
Tourism, festivals, theme parks, sport and other entertainments and diversions are frequently trotted out as solutions to everything, but only a diverse productive local base will provide sustainability.
One would like to see more recognition of cultural production as a core factor in building a city.
Perhaps more detail will be found in statements by individual candidates, and clarified as the campaign progresses, however it is encouraging to see the emergence of a collective campaign with policies that would give new life to Council.

05 July 2012

The Golden Egg

The Broadwater

From the school playground, a vista of open water, expansive sky, green bushland horizons and space to run. All a constant flux of wind, tide and weather. What an ideal environment for our future citizens – transcendent and inspiring.

Then I see full-page advertisements in the Express spruiking a plan to take all this away from the kids and the common people for private profit. A plan fervently opposed by a large number of residents. How can this be?

The answer should not be surprising. The terms of reference set by Gosford Council when beginning the process to invigorate the town centre (a good idea), always meant that profit driven corporate development would be the outcome. Other values would be squeezed in only where they didn’t conflict with the property development model or quarantined high value development sites, hence the disregard for the old School of Arts Building, the War Memorial park and the environmental heritage of the Broadwater.

We shouldn’t blame the Councillors, business people and bureaucrats. They are just doing what they know. They have not been educated in aesthetics and well being, the psychology of space and place, they do not have a feeling for how community capital imbedded in the commons translates into economic benefit. While they might protest that this is not the case, their actions say otherwise.

Perhaps they should visit the Gosford City Library and read the old newspapers. For over 100 years Gosford has been described as a sleepy hollow needing some kind of stimulus to bring it to life and to fulfil the promise of its beautiful setting. Then, as now, all strategies have been based on business development together with tourism.
Is this where we came in?

 Don't kill the Goose!

All this is not to say that corporate development does not have a valuable role to play, but sometimes the corporate “cart”, with its free load of civic leaders, runs over the “horse”.

Stage One is a gamble by those with nothing to loose. They are betting with public land and community assets (our taxes), at very long odds (see form guide) to try to get a big win.

With an election looming it is not surprising that no one wants to be seen as not supporting “improvement”, in whatever guise.

The application submitted to the Minister for Planning for State Significance Site status, from the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation, is big on rhetoric (“diverse and vibrant land water interface” – what ever that might mean) with no argument about any certain process whereby the proposed development will result in the outcomes promised. It is a document of faith and hope (like gambling). Charity comes in a distant third ­– like Father Riley’s Horse carrying the wishes of the common people.*

*However in Paterson’s poem of that name, the horse wins.

The  Gosford Times on 1 September 1911 stated:

The Times congratulates the Council upon its firm intention to keep hold of all the water frontage reserves in trust for the people.
These areas must never be parted with, and no Council should have the power, were they ever so inclined, to part with the People’s heritage.
And also in September 1911:

The Peoples Reserves.

To the Editor
Sir, I was glad to see by your report of last meeting that the Shire Council intends to preserve the reserves for the use of the public. Particularly should this apply to the reservations along the foreshores and river frontages. I quite agree with some of the Councillors that the Council should not have the power to trade away the peoples birthright, even were they so inclined, but apparently there are not many Esaus in the Erina Council, and I don’t think they would be hard to convert when they put on the considering cap and remembered that every public man’s policy should be the greatest good for the greatest number. – Yours, &c.  ORION

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence. Leonardo da Vinci.

“You get what you accept.”  Chris Holstein (when Mayor of Gosford City Council).