2 December 2022

Bega mayor has eyes on the state prize

| Zoe Cartwright
Start the conversation
Country Mayors Association

The NSW Country Mayors Association from left, immediate past chairman Ken Keith (Parkes Shire Council), Cr Kylie Thomas (Kyogle Shire Council), Cr Sue Moore (Singleton Shire Council), Cr Russell Webb (Tamworth Regional Council), Chairman Jamie Chaffey (Gunnedah Shire Council), Deputy Chairman Rick Firman (Temora Shire Council), Cr Russell Fitzpatrick (Bega Valley Shire Council), Cr Craig Davies (Narromine Shire Council), Cr John Medcalf (Lachlan Shire Council) and Cr Sam Coupland (Armidale Regional Council). Absent: Phyllis Miller (Forbes Shire Council). Photo: Supplied.

Bega Valley Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick has just been reelected to the executive of the Country Council Mayors Association of NSW – but it may be a short tenure.

Mr Fitzpatrick has also been endorsed as Liberal candidate for Bega and will contest the next election.

“I’ve been a party member for more than 10 years, and they convinced me to put my hand up,” he said.

“I think the Perrottet Government is doing a good job, and I think there are some opportunities we’re either not getting or not taking advantage of.”

READ ALSO After a year of frustration, wheels turning towards Congo Road solution

Mr Fitzpatrick said he would continue as mayor until after the state election.

“If I’m successful I’ll have to resign – if not I’ll continue as mayor if the shire still wants me,” he said.

Either way, he sees the big issues for Bega as housing, road maintenance and aged care.

“The Census showed our population growth was six or seven per cent, but NSW as a whole was about 1.1 per cent, so there’s been a real change in where people want to live,” he said.

“At the same time it’s been three years since our bushfires and we still have 50 per cent of people not rebuilt.

READ ALSO State of the Climate: Dangerous weather events becoming less rare for Canberra and southern NSW

“There is a housing crisis in Bega Valley, where people may have had a holiday house now they’re living here permanently, so the rental market is absolutely full.

“Biodiversity rules limit development, and there’s a lack of resources for regional councils to provide the services needed for new developments to go in – it’s not like Sydney where it’s easy to find big developers willing to put on sewerage and water.”

Mr Fitzpatrick says the Country Mayors Association helps rural and regional councils band together and advocate for issues that don’t affect city councils.

“It gives us a voice,” he said.

“On Local Government for NSW there are a lot more city members, and the needs are quite different.

“We live in the best part of the world, we just need to address some of these inequities in funding.”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.