SHOOTERS, Fishers and Farmers party candidate for Dungog Shire Council has made a solemn pledge to voters in the council election on September 9 – if they want him to go to Macquarie Street and “kneecap a few people for money for this shire, I’ll be in the car in 15 minutes”.
“If that’s what it takes to put the pieces back together after the disastrous council amalgamation process, I’m happy to do it,” said John Preston, an accountant, tax specialist and former Liberal who moved to the Dungog area before being preselected as the party’s Upper Hunter state seat candidate for the 2019 election.
Standing for Dungog Council as residents are polled about a potential merger with Port Stephens or Maitland councils is “a chance for me to bring my local government experience to the table to help the council move forward”, he said.
He praised mayor Nancy Knudsen and councillors Tracy Norman, Linda Bowden and Robert Booth for remaining after the resignation of other councillors and the general manager during the fraught council amalgamation process.
“The four who have remained have really done the decent thing and that should be acknowledged,” he said.
The damage caused by the failed NSW Government amalgamation process was “utterly palpable when you talk to Dungog people”.
Ms Knudsen said she was delighted at the depth of talent and experience in people who had nominated for the council, including current councillors Tracy Norman and Robert Booth, businessmen Wayne Streat and Greg Riley, former councillor Lea Mitchell, former chamber of commerce president Jenny Bishop and veterinarian Digby Rayward.
Ms Knudsen said the council had some major challenges ahead of it, and needed people who recognised the council “should be run as a business with a social conscience”.
“That’s the big challenge that must be made,” she said.
She said decisions from decades ago that locked in low rates left the council financially constrained. The decision whether to merge with either Maitland or Port Stephens, or at all, would be put to residents on September 9.
“There’s a lot of nervousness about what a merger might mean and a lot of issues that need to be addressed by a new council,” she said.