Last Monday (August 21) evening I attended the first of the three Meet the Candidates meetings. While I now live in Hawks Nest, my allegiance and historical interests are still heavily engaged with Stroud where I resided for over 20 years.
Any of the meeting venues would mean a 240 kilometre round trip but assuming I would bump into a few familiar Stroud residents, I opted for Gloucester.
Having read little about my 69 candidates, I resorted to reading their online registration forms. A surprising 60 per cent had written ‘nil’ where they had the opportunity to expound the virtues as to why I should be considering voting for them.
Frankly, this Gloucester meeting was a shemozzle and I hope lessons will be learned from it for the next two encounters. The first hiccup being the microphones only marginally worked and if each Group representative was saying something really important, I think I may have missed it. Secondly, where were 30 per cent of these candidates – are they so keen they weren’t even at this first meeting?
Unpolished as were the majority of the speeches, one could also hardly tell if the 58 who will not succeed on September 9, will either be surprised or even disappointed.
Obviously, my own interest in the 11 newly to-be-elected councillors, from a pre-merger 25, was not shared by my ex-Stroud compatriots as I barely managed to count six familiar faces. I intently listened to the two hours of muffled rhetoric hoping to hear if Stroud and Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest would get the mention they deserved but alas, while two candidates’ obvious ‘passion’ is with these areas, it was still disappointing to learn that one had only decided to ‘stand’ three days prior to the registration cut off and the other spoke more about her ‘daily egg run’ than assuring me that historic Stroud isn’t just a pimple on the MCC pumpkin but is a very important factor in the founding history of ex-Great Lakes Council that should never be ignored.
I have always had trouble understanding the preferences system, so when an elderly lady in the audience asked if this could be explained, four candidates stood up in turn, each confusing himself and the audience more than the previous. In a hail of laughter, the MC took control and said “Preferences is a very complicated issue and I suggest if anyone wants it explained they go to their local electoral office and speak to an officer.”
I don’t think I was alone in coming away from that meeting quietly bemused, little the wiser for my effort of turning up and despite being assured by the one or two candidates who seemed to be worth their ‘salt’ and could just be heard, that despite the merged council having a population of 90,000, being the second largest council in NSW consisting of over 10,000 square kilometres with a large backlog of inferior roads, I am not to worry because “I will be looked after”, maybe not in person very often but my mobile phone will definitely be my best friend and the 11 elected councillors will always be on the end of their phone waiting to hear my plight. With a 90,000 population - those phones are going to be running red hot!
Sadly, I believe this is a taste of what is to come but I hope I am proved wrong.
Pauline Ibbetson – Hawks Nest