The secrets to Bruce MacKenzie's political staying power

AS the colossus of Port Stephens politics and a larger-than-life figure in business, Bruce MacKenzie is used to throwing his weight around.

Below average height and approaching his late 70s, the Port Stephens mayor is no shrinking violet.

Cr MacKenzie, who started in local government in 1968, doesn’t count himself a politician.

The former chicken farmer and greyhound trainer turned company director has enjoyed a roller-coaster ride in public life.

He has quit local government three times, only to eventually win his spot back.

In September 2012 he became the area’s first directly elected leader, narrowly beating out his principal antagonist Cr Geoff Dingle.

A legend in Port Stephens for his razor sharp put-downs and  unashamed propensity to bend the rules, Cr MacKenzie has withstood four decades of controversy, including two suspensions from civic office.

There is little he enjoys more than making an opponent squirm.

At the same time, his popularity with constituents has ensured he is the longest-standing councillor at Port Stephens.

In 1997 Cr MacKenzie made separate court appearances for assault, negligent driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

After guilty pleas on all of the charges he copped fines on two of them and a 12-month bond on the assault charge.

Always refusing to bow to political correctness, Cr MacKenzie freely admits having been involved in ‘‘funny’’  business and encouraging people to bend council rules.

He holds the dubious honour of being the first,  then the second, local councillor in NSW suspended by a pecuniary interest tribunal.

In 1988, Cr MacKenzie was investigated by the Department of Local Government over claims the council improperly gave him usage rights over land he owned at Salt Ash. 

The matter was referred to police who found "no evidence of criminality".

While some politicians are dogged by the slightest whiff of scandal, others, like Cr MacKenzie, have a curious quality that makes them like teflon. Nothing seems to stick.

His Port Stephens fame rests not only on his larger-than-life political persona, but his impressive business interests.

A self-made millionaire, he runs Macka’s Sand with his son Robert, which has the potential to turn over $1.5billion over 30 years, depending on  the fluctuations of  the market. He owns dozens of properties throughout the Hunter, including the site of the Raymond Terrace liquor giant Dan Murphy’s.

His supporters say it isn’t rudeness – his tendency to talk over opponents and put them down – so much as an urgent need to hurry things along and get things done.

Cr MacKenzie left school at the age of 14 and took a job at a Williamtown dairy. He worked dozens of jobs, saving  to buy a block of land at Mallabula that he eventually turned into a chicken farm.

The experience of having built his own business, he said, helped make him a good mayor.

Cr MacKenzie has lived all his life at Salt Ash, and insists he will be buried in the hamlet where his mother, the late Cecilia MacKenzie, ran the local post office for 50 years.

NOW: Macca, as Bruce MacKenzie is known throughout Port Stephens, does not refer to himself as a politican.

NOW: Macca, as Bruce MacKenzie is known throughout Port Stephens, does not refer to himself as a politican.

THEN: Bruce MacKenzie began his career in politics in 1968.

THEN: Bruce MacKenzie began his career in politics in 1968.


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