Give residents power

BOLD IDEAS: Belinda Coleman (left) wants to give new businesses a rate holiday if they come to Wagga. Robyn Kirk (right) wants to strip council staff of decision-making power and let community groups decide where the money goes. The Daily Advertiser continues its series of questions and answers with council candidates.
Nanjing Night Net

Belinda Coleman on the Pascoe ticket was a police officer withexpertise in crime scene examinationin the Major Crime Response Unit and helped identifyvictims of thedevastating tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004.

The mother of two with four step-children started her own personal training business before taking over Wagga Scrap Metals to help a friend suffering from cancer.

Robyn Kirk on the Next Generation ticket spent the past two years at Charles Sturt University helping researchers access technology, while running her own business analysis service.

Ms Kirk has a passion for social justice and spent years volunteering to help refugees, including those within the Villawood immigration detention centre.

Belinda ColemanAs a former Detective Sergent with 14 years service to the NSW Police Force, what cancouncil do about Wagga’s youth crime scourge?

Everybody has a role in preventing and reducingcrime and council absolutely has a responsibilityto look out for businesses and residents.

CCTV in the CBD and theAshmont Community Resource Centre outreach program are good examples of where council can assist policing.

A lot of people are scared to talk to police and provide evidence, so could could liaise between police and thecommunity.

It’s important council provides facilitiesto keep kidsbusy, like skate parks.

Are Wagga’s footpaths good enough?

Not at all, our footpaths arenot up to scratch, if they even exist.

Gregadoo Road is an example of an important road for kids getting to school–Mater Dei and Lake Albert Public School–but there’snowhere to walk safely.

You can’t even push a pram unless you’re on the road because it’s all grass and boggy land.

I tried going for walks with my toddler in a pramand it’s near impossible.

What are the biggest issues Wagga faces?

Firstly, the levee bankneeds to be pushed ahead as priority to protect businesses andresidents alike.

Secondly, council needs to entice morebusinesses and jobsto town, which might includedanglingcarrotslike free rates until they areestablished.

Finally, council needs to make sure roads are repaired properly with the rightsurface to protect against the elements, especially with changingconditions in climate.

What can council do to improve access to the Murrumbidgee River?

Visitors coming through Wagga for a day or two don’t even realise there’s a river becauseit’s hard to access and not visible from any of the main thoroughfares.

We should have a cafe down on the water where people can go and enjoy lunch and have time with their families.

There should be a decent pathway to link areas along the waterway, not just for walking, but for kids on bikes and roller-blades.

How important is gender diversity on council?

It’s important in terms of equal representation of our community.

It’s not just important to have more women on council, it would benice to have anAboriginal councillor and other representatives fromsignificant groups within the community.

Robyn KirkAt seventh on mayor Rod Kendall’sticket, do you stand any chance of winning?

Everyone,in theory, is an independent and I encourage peopleto vote below the line.

I could have run as independent, but I believe in values of Next Generation; doing things differently and leaving a positivelegacy for the next generation.

Do you support the proposed drug drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility on Gurwood Street?

I was at the Australian Drug Foundation’s Breaking the Ice forumlast weekand someone involved in Aboriginal healthsaid there’s been aneedle exchange in Wagga for years and it’sbeen a really effective program, providing counselling and cleanneedles to givethem a chance to get off drugs.

The Riverina Recovery House is not a new model, they exist elsewhere and have been shown to be effective.

It’s not just about dealing with drugs, also bringingpeople into supportive environment to talk about decent nutrition and connection with support networks.

What are the biggest issues facing Wagga?

People are expecting to have a say, so there’s no need for council staff to make all the decisions, we can share that responsibility.

Council needs toempower community groups –suburbs, villages and businesses –take on the issues affecting them.

It’s about devolving council responsibilities, so community groups decide whether toprioritise council funds fora newskate park, bicycle track orbetter roads;they decide.

The role of councillors becomes supporting that process by involving thecommunity, managing theprojects andfinancial management and reporting.

How would you reduce waiting times for council services?

Council needs to be more flexible in their processes, so there’s notlengthy delays if someone’s application differs from the norm.

Things like online chat would allow residents to getstraight in and talk to someone instead of waiting on the phone.

Could council foster more social cohesion?

When the community changes from what people knew as children, they start to feel nervous about new people comingin.

Council has a role in social harmonyby providing opportunities for people to meet each other and realise we have more in common than differences.

We should have more multicultural events, especially those with food, which isa great way to connect people.

As Rod Kendall says, Wagga’slarge enough to countbut small enough to care.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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