Bellingen’s new Mayor, Dominic King, said he is very proud of his team’s success in the local government elections.
“To go from a lone Greens Councillor last term to the Mayoral role with two other Councillors elected is a huge recognition of how strongly our messages resonated with the community,” Mr King said.
“The result stems from a positive campaign with a strong vision for the Shire into the future and lots of listening to a wide variety of people from all parts of the community. We also had a great team and lots of supporters so it has been an anxious wait for results, followed by much celebration and a palpable sense of team work and shared victory.”
King also acknowledged that this result has been built on a long history of active Greens in the Shire, serving on Council and campaigning at State and Federal levels.
“It has also been built on the global movement that recognises the need for change, that ‘business as usual’ is causing irreversible damage to the planet we, and so many other species, rely upon, and that we need to innovate and develop new ways of doing business,” he said.
“The new Council make-up sends a clear message to sustainable, innovative businesses that this is the place to set up and we hope to see more of the kind of jobs and industries that are positive for the community and the environment, such as renewable energy, organic food production and value-adding, new tourist markets and cottage industries.
“The Green presence also sends a strong message to businesses that tend to profit from community and exploit natural resources without giving back, these aren’t the kind of industries and practices that are welcome here.”
King is excited about leading the new Council which includes a mix of the experienced (Councillors Gary Carter, Steve Klipin and Desmae Harrison), as well as new enthusiastic team members in Greens Jennie Fenton and Toni Wright-Turner, with the addition of Steve Jenkins.
“I look forward to this group building on our common focus of improving the openness and transparency of Council and bringing greater communication between community and Council. I think between the seven of us, we have a huge range of great skills and experience and community connections and we can work well together to make Council and our communities stronger,” he said.
King is full of praise for the members of his team joining Council and the approach each will bring.
“Jennie Fenton has an impressive background in science and river management, government, and project management, with very strong skills as a community-builder,” he said.
“She has achieved a lot in the Shire in terms of local food, disability advocacy, festivals and community-run childcare and she brings her unique mix of high energy, intelligence, humour and genuine care of and connection with people. She will continue to advocate for community, particularly those with less of a voice.
“Toni brings her skills as an educator and an administrator earned during her distinguished 40-year career, and her calm way of sharing, listening and negotiating. She will be a strong advocate for quality local health and education services, the local food movement (particularly biodynamic and organic farming), and sustainable local jobs, like renewable energy.”
King is also excited about working with and learning from other shires, (such as Byron) who have had experience in sustainable leadership.
“There are so many Councils doing innovative things already, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel but rather tap into the collective wisdom and experience,” he said.
The new Mayor and Councillors are already being asked what will be first and King is clear that the first job is to talk as a Council and an organisation about where we want to head in the next 4 years. The next step is to make those election promises around making Council meeting more accessible to the community a reality.
“We are planning to have a series of forums around the Shire to get input about a number of the key issues raised during the election campaign, like tourism, forestry and landuse, and jobs,” he said. “We are very serious about Councillors and senior staff hearing first hand the voices of our community. Listening and planning action together is crucial to success.”
The Courier-Sun asked the Greens team about the importance of female councillors with a change from one to three. Cr Fenton: “The diversity of our community is important, its part of who we are and what makes us unique, so representing that diversity in Council is also important,” Cr Fenton said.