Watts receives strong support in Upper Hunter

INCUMBENT Upper Hunter Shire mayor Lee Watts has received a strong show of support and more than 30 per cent of the vote to return her as a councillor for the next four years.

Cr Watts said after attracting 1562 votes, she would stand for mayor again when the new council meets for the first time on September 24.

‘‘I am ecstatic,’’ Cr Watts said.

‘‘I did not think that I would do that well,’’ she said.

A former mayor Cr Michael Johnsen received 781 votes, the second next highest number of votes.

Cr Johnsen said he was considering standing against Cr Watts for the top job.

Cr Watts has a high profile in the 8000 square kilometre shire.

She’s manager of the Scone Neighbourhood Centre manager, a community services advocacy and referral organisation with the Scone shopfront.

‘‘One of the things people like is the fact they can just and talk to me,’’ Cr Watts said. 

Although counting is not finished, Cr Johnsen said it was likely the council would have five new councillors and return four existing representatives.

A sizeable group of the existing councillors decided not to contest the poll.

The result means rural areas of the shire, places such as Moonan Flat and Merriwa have strong representation.

One of the possible new councillors is Kiwa Fisher, who polled 438.

Mr Fisher, who has played an active role in opposing open-cut coal mines in the shire, said the state government’s strategic landuse planning legislation was a priority issue for him.

Mr Fisher said he was also concerned at the high level of informal votes. 

The informal rate for the Upper Hunter shire was 14.48 per cent.

Mr Fisher said the high rate needed to be an issue dealt with swiftly by the new council.

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