IT'S time to get back to grassroots decision-making while thinking strategically about how the Port Macquarie-Hastings region can realistically cope with future growth.
Making sensible decisions for future generations and ensuring the community's needs are met now is driving Camden Haven resident Jon Bailey's campaign for council election. The elections have now been postponed from September 4 to December 4 due to COVID concerns.
Mr Bailey has lived at Bob's Creek for 40 years and enjoyed a 36-year career in the media as a cameraman for NBN Television.
He is well-known and respected in community, business and sporting circles and made the decision to run as an independent candidate so the Camden Haven has a seat at the table.
"Our infrastructure, our road networks, our sporting facilities - they are just not keeping pace with our population growth. I think we are at a tipping point now," Mr Bailey said.
"Population growth is not slowing down and we need to make decisions that provide for our community."
Junior sport, for example, is at bursting point when it comes to the provision of adequate playing fields and competition space, Mr Bailey said.
"You only need to look at the Vince Inmon fields at Laurieton oval on a Saturday morning. It's overflowing with kids. Fairmont Gardens at Wauchope is incredible. There's no room for expansion. What is the plan for junior sport in Wauchope and Laurieton?
"Our strategic planning has been less than ordinary I think. We have to plan for the future. We have to plan for population growth, you can't hold back the tide."
That growth, he says, has extended well beyond the boundaries of Port Macquarie with the residential sprawl rapidly infiltrating smaller village communities. The impact is infrastructure is not matching the growing needs of those communities.
"Look at places like Beechwood - it has doubled in size in terms of the rooftops going up. At Kendall and Kew, there's a new over 55s estate going in with an extra 198 homes. What have we done for the road network? Some places don't even have adequate footpaths or any kerb and guttering," he said.
"In some areas, we are really putting the cart before the horse. We don't want to leave future generations with a mess to clean up. Let's get it right now."
Mr Bailey said environmental challenges in the Camden Haven are impacting on the livelihood of local families, particularly stormwater overflow into the local river system.
"It only takes one decent shower of rain in the Camden Haven and stormwater overflow results in sewage running into and polluting the Camden Haven River where our fishing and oyster industries are," he said.
"These industries are run by local people, local families. What other council in the 21st century has a river system that has sewage flowing into it?"
Council and its performance, including the behaviour of the elected body, deserves close scrutiny, he said.
"I think relationships need to change. From what I've heard from our new CEO, Dr Clare Allen, she has a good vision and good ideas in place.
"Hopefully she can shake the staff up and get a good team atmosphere there and get everyone working in one direction. But as for the people around the council table, they have to get along.
"You're there for the community. You don't get anymore grassroots than council. You are elected by the community to make decisions and get the job done."
Mr Bailey loves his community but says families and local businesses are still hurting post-floods and managing day by day with the challenges of COVID.
"This region has a tourism campaign coming up, and our council is going to spend quite a bit of money on it - it can't just be focused on Port Macquarie," he said.
"Camden Haven is an absolute jewel in the crown. Ecotourism is going to be a real opportunity and a drawcard for our region's international market when borders eventually open. Let's be ahead of the game on that."
Who else is in the running so far?
- Group ticket: Peta Pinson, Sharon Griffiths, Danielle Maltman. Josh Slade and Adam Roberts
- Group ticket (The Greens): Lauren Edwards, Stuart Watson, Les Mitchell and Drusi Megget
- Group ticket (Hastings First): Nik James Lipovac, Kerry Fox, Linda Lenord, Michael Clarke and Justin Hardie
- Group ticket (Fighters for our Region): Lisa Intemann, Kingsley Searle, Stewart Cooper, Narelle Milligan and Paul Bradford
- John Saunders, independent for Camden Haven