Profiling an entire council: what candidate responses say about future policies

WHAT WILL WE DO?: One of the new council's biggest talking points will be the future of the Northern Distributor Road.
WHAT WILL WE DO?: One of the new council's biggest talking points will be the future of the Northern Distributor Road.

IF their words on the campaign trail are any indication, our freshly-elected councillors will be looking to cede responsibility of the city’s most controversial road, avoid heavy industrial developments near the airport, and refrain from freezing rates.

In the lead up to the council election, the Central Western Daily asked all 88 candidates to complete profiles which canvassed their views on a variety of Orange-centric issues.

Of the elected 12, only the Shooters duo refrained from submitting answers.

Among the topics the candidates addressed were their plans for the Northern Distributor Road, thoughts on the industrial re-zoning near Orange Regional Airport, and their intentions to drop, freeze or increase residents’ rates.

Through an examination of their responses it’s possible to identify a consensus point of view to all three issues, and glimpse the likely directions the new council will take when they assume control of the city’s affairs.

For example, a majority of the successful candidates believe the best course of action to take in regards to the Northern Distributor Road is the one advocated by former deputy mayor Jason Hamling.

“We need to continue negotiations with the State Government to see it take over and maintain this road,” Mr Hamling said.

A dissenting voice to that view came from Joanne McRae, who believes council “should accept responsibility for this project and ensure we can keep it up to a suitable standard”.

When it came to backing or opposing the industrial re-zoning near the airport, the group’s collective voice was best summed up by Tony Mileto.

“Cancel the proposed airport business park development and return the land to agricultural zoning,” Mr Mileto said, echoing the environmental concerns expressed most vehemently by Ms McRae, Stephen Nugent, Kevin Duffy and Reg Kidd.

Two returning councillors – Russell Turner and Mr Hamling – supported the development of the site, with the rider that any approved projects shouldn’t “adversely impact the environment”.

Almost all of the new panel shied away from promises to reduce or freeze rates, with most stating keeping up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a basic requirement.

The glaring exception to this rule was Mr Duffy, who launched his election campaign on a promise to try to freeze rates and gave no indication of watering down that view in his profile.

“I pledge to do everything in my power to freeze rates and fees for at least one to two years,” Mr Duffy said.

Mr Mileto added “if the budget would allow, my first order of business would be to place a freeze on water and sewerage rates”.