31 January 2022

Historic election of first female team to lead Snowy Monaro Regional Council

| Albert McKnight
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Narelle Davis and Tanya Higgins

Snowy Monaro Regional Council’s new leadership team is Mayor Narelle Davis (left) and Deputy Mayor Tanya Higgins (right). Photo: Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

History has been made with the new leadership team for Snowy Monaro Regional Council. For the first time it will be spearheaded by females, while women also comprise the majority of newly elected councillors.

Leading the new Snowy Monaro Regional Council are Mayor Narelle Davis and Deputy Mayor Tanya Higgins, who were elected at the new council’s first meeting in early January.

“I feel it’s a real privilege to be elected mayor,” said Ms Davis.

“I’m very thankful to my fellow councillors who voted eight to three for me to be mayor, but also the confidence from the community for having six women elected to council.

“Women have a very important role to play in our community.”

Ms Davis also served as a councillor in the Cooma Monaro Shire about 20 years ago, while she had children at school, was working a high-level job in the health industry, and was running a farm with her husband.

“I’ve found that women often have a lot more demands on their time, and being able to dedicate time to a role in local government is something they often don’t even have the time to consider,” she said.

“Even though women have very busy lives, they have so much to offer the community and should not think that’s a barrier to them standing for council.”

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There has also been a dramatic rise in the number of women elected to councils across NSW.

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) president Darriea Turley said women now comprise 39.5 per cent of all councillors in NSW – an 8.5 per cent jump on the proportion of women elected in 2016-2017.

“The proportion of women on council was stuck between 27 and 31 per cent for nearly a decade so to make such great progress in a single election is really worth celebrating,” she said.

Ms Davis said the most important priority for the Snowy Monaro region is fixing its damaged road network.

She said council will be seeking more funding to address the damage from the rain, and long-term maintenance of the roads network.

When discussing other upcoming projects, Ms Davis said a major one for the community is the Queanbeyan-to-Bombala rail trail, which is proposed to be a bike or walking path to run for more than 200km between the towns.

Ms Davis said it is in the development stage and is currently unfunded, but council supports it and will be trying to obtain financing for it.

Another project is the Cooma sports hub, with Ms Davis saying it is a piece of infrastructure that has been in the pipeline for a couple of years, and that a tender has gone out for it.

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She said council will be involved in the specialist activation precinct (SAP) for Jindabyne, a state government program to develop adequate infrastructure as it is deemed the town is growing faster than its current infrastructure can support.

Ms Davis also said one of the major issues affecting the Snowy Monaro region is housing.

It is “almost impossible” to find rentals in Cooma, while the cost of buying a home has also increased significantly, she said.

Ms Davis said the new councillors are keen to discuss a plan for social housing.

Another issue is in regard to the aged care workforce and viability of the region’s aged care facilities.

Ms Davis said aged care workers face poor pay and could earn $2 or $3 more an hour to work at Aldi, for example, and if the community wants to keep hard-working staff in the industry, “we need to value them and pay them accordingly”.

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The four returning councillors to Snowy Monaro Regional Council are John Castellari, Peter Beer, Bob Stewart and John Last.

They have been joined by councillors Christopher Hanna, Tricia Hopkins, Karlee Pateman, Lynda Summers and Louise Frolich.

At the first meeting, councillors unanimously voted to start holding their meetings from 1 pm every third Thursday, beginning in March 2022.

Councillors also voted to send CEO Peter Bascomb, Ms Davis, Ms Higgins and Ms Summers to the Local Government NSW Special Conference in late February 2022.

This is an important networking and educational event for councillors, many of who are beginning their local government political careers, or resuming them after some time away.

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Dear Editor

Sport & Tourism are very good economic growth tools; well done SMRC.

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