TRRRA Candidate Questions
- Why are you running, and what do you think you can offer Tamworth Region?
Stephen Maher is a Tamworth local and Chartered Accountant with qualifications in accounting, law, management and financial planning and has practiced in Tamworth for over thirty years.
- How do those of you with political affiliations address the issues that arise serving two masters?
I have no political affiliations, however I do have friends who are members of the Liberal, Nationals and Labor party’s.
- Every candidate says that they always put the community first. But what does that mean to you?
When making a decisions, will it make the community as a whole better off? Will it have detriment on any community members? Can that detriment be reasonably prevented or mitigated? What are viable better options or alternatives? Then get 8 other Councillors to agree with you.
- What are your views on the interaction between Councillors, senior council staff and developers documented and available on public record?
Senior staff are already required to keep file notes of meetings with developers, to the best of my knowledge. It is my opinion that all meetings between Councillors and developers should be documented by a file note in Council records, the same way Lawyers, Accountants, Financial Planners, Teachers who have parent meetings, and many other professional are required to do.
- How would you improve transparency and accountability for Counsellors and the Council?
The 2012-2016 Council ceased allowing questions from ratepayers of Council other than if the question was about a matter in the agenda of the meeting. Council will also sometimes accept presentations to Councillors usually for about 10 minutes, but will take nor answer any questions or make any comments , The is virtually no way to talk with the council other than by making representations to individual Councillors. I personally regard these changes as not merely undemocratic, but anti-democratic. There should be more opportunities for open discussion with Councillors.
- Understandably, the Council needs to maintain confidentiality around some issues and be discussed in Closed Council sessions. How do you feel those Closed Council discussions impact the Council’s transparency and accountability?
My concerns centre around anything to do with the sale of Council owned lands. Because most community land has been classified as operational, it can be sold in closed Council meetings. If it were classified as community land then the status would need to changed and some public notice at least be given.
- Would you support a review of Chaffey dam water management?
Yes. The major issue is the management of the Chaffey Dam by Water NSW. In late 2016 when the Dam wall had been raised and Dam capacity increased from 60 GL to 100 GL and fortuitously rains had filled the dam, it difficult to understand how by early 2019, the dam had fallen to below 20%, even allowing for the impact of drought and the Tamworth region was at risk of running out of water. Council stated that it was not possible to bring in sufficient water supply by train and even so there were insurmountable difficulties in detraining the supply. The cause of this situation can only be negligent mismanagement by Water NSW on a substantial scale, which no one has been held accountable for. Competent management of the Chaffey dam may substantially resolve the more egregious impacts of variable climate conditions.
- What are your views on TRC pursuing alternate water sources to ensure water security, e.g. purchasing some or all of the Peel Valley licenses from those willing to sell?
The Tamworth Regional Council Engineer has suggested buying back some of the local irrigation licences that would increase the city water supply at a much lower cost.
Purified recycled water is supported for industrial use if practicable. The 2015 Hunter H2O report page 55 estimated the recycled water was the most costly alternative by a substantial margin ($1,040 ML).
Recycled water for human consumption is not supported. Why should potable water be used for agriculture and environmental flows and the residents of Tamworth be forced to drink recycled water, it defies common sense and is an unnecessary health risk.
Recycled water might be used for industrial purposes such as construction and other industries.
- Do you believe the community should be advised before the sale of community assets?