There are six candidates running for Mayor in the Shoalhaven, but no matter who gets the top job, disaster management will be a key priority.
- Six candidates are running for the position of Mayor in the Shoalhaven local government elections
- Only one candidate, Independent Paul Green is not a current councillor
- Disaster prevention and assistance plus housing will be key focus points for the next council term, no matter who is elected
Incumbent Greens Mayor Amanda Findley is re-contesting the top job and said helping people recover from bushfires was crucial.
“I’d really like to see some focused help for those who are battling insurance companies,” Mayor Findley said.
She said she has worked with the current council on the FORTIS house plan project, a resource that shows building manuals and architectural drawings to help people rebuild their homes in line with new bushfire safety ratings.
Councillor and Independent mayoral candidate Patricia White said she too would be looking to continue her work in assisting those still recovering.
“Coming out of COVID and out of the bushfires, COVID has really taken over from the bushfires and some people are being left behind and they shouldn’t be,” Councillor White said.
More practical approaches
Other candidates said they would take a more practical approach to try to prevent future disasters.
Current Deputy Mayor Greg Watson is running as part of his political group, the Shoalhaven Independents, alongside Patricia White.
Mr Watson was first elected to Shoalhaven Council in 1974 and has held the position of Mayor a number of times since then.
He has been embroiled in a flag burning scandal in 1982, where he burnt an Aboriginal flag, however he has since apologised for what he described as a “media stunt”.
He said he would try to implement land clearing around bushfire-prone towns to try to stop fire from getting to them in the first place.
“With a proper asset protection zone, you are really only up for an ember attack.
“If you’re going to have bushland growing up to the back of houses, you are not going to stop the kind of fires we have here in the Shoalhaven,” he said.
Councillor and anti-vax campaigner Nina Digiglio said rather than clearing land, she would lobby the federal government for funding to employ Aboriginal people to help manage land in the Shoalhaven and prevent future disasters.
“Their cultural knowledge in all those spaces is important,” Councillor Digiglio said.
“That includes fire management and management of the environment,” she said.
‘We have to go to the people’
Former Mayor Paul Green was the only candidate not currently on the council taking a tilt at the Shoalhaven Council’s top job, but he has been there before.
Mr Green was the mayor between 2008 and 2012.
He left the job and was elected to the NSW legislative assembly as a member of the Christian Democratic Party in 2013, but lost the seat in the 2019 election.
Mr Green spent much of the 2019-2020 bushfire season defending his own home near Nowra.
He said if he was elected, he wanted to establish a taskforce to help continue the rebuilding process in the city, and manage any future disasters.
“Sometimes we set up a centre for people to come to, but often they are vulnerable and broken and not in the right headspace to go there.
“We need to have a taskforce to ensure each person has been able to get the help they need or the resources to help them recover,” he said.
Councillor Mark Kitchener is also running for Mayor however did not respond to the ABC’s request for an interview.
The Mayoral position in the Shoalhaven will be popularly elected by the community.