NEWCASTLE councillor Brad Luke has confirmed he will relinquish his Liberal party branch presidency and contest next month’s Newcastle lord mayoral byelection as an independent.
Mr Luke, currently in America on a self-funded tour to promote Newcastle’s smart city credentials, confirmed on Tuesday that he had nominated for the city’s top civic job and wanted to ‘‘continue the reforms’’ made by the current council.
His nomination comes as two more candidates officially threw their hats in the ring yesterday – independent candidate and Islington resident Rod Holding and Australia First Party candidate Joe Ferguson.
They join the Greens’ Therese Doyle, Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes and former independent councillor Aaron Buman, who have already nominated.
Mr Luke said the Liberal party chose not to endorse a lord mayoral candidate, adding that he was happy to run as an independent and fund his own campaign because ‘‘it’s important to get a lord mayor who can deal with whatever state government we get’’.
‘‘Two things happened in the past week which swung my mind,’’ Mr Luke said.
‘‘Firstly, Labor’s announcement on the art gallery stunned me. The fact that Labor wants us to borrow $7million to get the gallery project up again not only increases the city’s debt but will cost about $400,000 a year in interest which we could be spending on things like roads.
‘‘Secondly, Aaron Buman announcing his nomination. I agree with him that the council we’ve had for the past two years has been the best council in years, but putting Aaron back on council would be a step backwards.
‘‘We can’t go back to negative politics and the dysfunctional councils that have dogged this city for decades.
‘‘My real focus is on outcomes. This council has achieved fantastic things in a short time – our operating budget is down, our deficit is down, we’ve reduced the size of our senior management team, finances are turning around and things are finally getting done.
‘‘We’ve been achieving real benefits and real outcomes for the city, repairing our crumbling infrastructure without building new monuments so someone can have their name on a plaque.’’
Mr Luke is the current president of the NSW Liberal Party’s Newcastle branch. He said he would resign from the post when he returned from overseas.
Nominations for the November 15 lord mayoral byelection close at noon Wednesday.