A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.
Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.
Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.
But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.
You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.
Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.
“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.
With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.
Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.
The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.
Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.
“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.
Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.
Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.
“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.
The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.
“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.
“We had a really shocking time during the drought.
“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.
“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.
Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.
“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.
“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.
“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.
Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.
“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.
“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”
Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.
“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.
Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.
Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.
*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.
*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley.