Meet Newcastle’s youngest councillor


POLLS: Declan Clausen is ready to take his place on Newcastle City Council and claims a mandate critics say barely exists.  Picture: Dean Osland

POLLS: Declan Clausen is ready to take his place on Newcastle City Council and claims a mandate critics say barely exists. Picture: Dean Osland

NEWLY-elected councillor Declan Clausen has promised to bring a back-to-basics agenda to Newcastle council when he officially gets a seat at City Hall later this week.

The 22-year-old became the youngest person ever elected to the council when he won Saturday’s ward three byelection in  a much tighter race than expected.

Mr Clausen secured almost 43per cent of the primary vote, about 850 votes ahead of independent candidate Kath Elliott.

He said the result was ‘‘a mandate’’ to restore the services that were ‘‘cut by the McCloy council’’.

His critics, though, said no mandate existed when 57per cent of electors voted against him, and funding those services will push the council back towards the insolvency it was facing two years ago.

‘‘I want to focus on the basics like roads and footpaths,’’ Mr Clausen said. ‘‘I know they’re not very interesting things but they’re the things that most people talked to me about during the campaign.

‘‘I want to clear the backlog of works and focus on delivering services like libraries and pools.’’

Asked about the council’s finances, he said he has ‘‘a good understanding’’ of the council’s financial position but ‘‘I’ll have a better understanding when I can get access’’ to the council’s books.

His election cements the balance of power on the council for the Labor-Greens alliance which occupies seven of the council’s 13 seats.

The former Lambton High School captain and Young Labor president is a former Newcastle Young Citizen of the Year and played leading roles in environmental initiatives such as ClimateCam and TogetherToday.

Ms Elliott, the former Newcastle Alliance chief, congratulated Mr Clausen but added ‘‘this is not a mandate for Labor ... they need to listen to the whole community’’.

‘‘I gave people an alternative choice and a lot of people voted for change,’’ she said. ‘‘If [independent candidate] Allan Warren didn’t run, I’d have won ... but unfortunately we’re going to see Labor getting the council back into the red. You can’t keep spending and putting rates up by 50per cent and expect that everything is going to be okay.’’

At the close of counting on Sunday, Mr Clausen had polled 8124 (42.95per cent) first preferences, followed by Ms Elliott on 7256 (38.37per cent). Final counts and preferences will be determined before he is officially declared the winner on Wednesday. His first official council meeting will be held on March 17.

The Greens’ Nevenka Bareham polled 1969 (10.41per cent), followed by independent Allan Warren on 1170 (6.19per cent) and Arjay Martin on 394 (2.08per cent).