Candidates face forum

A FESTIVAL space at Jerrara Dam and non-privatisation of council assets were among the discussion topics at a "Meet the Candidates" forum at The Pavilion last week.

Hosted by the Kiama and District Chamber of Commerce, the evening provided an opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves and their policies.

Group C Community Voice candidate Neil Reilly said his team had a "bold plan" to invite large concerts, carnivals and festivals to Kiama by investigating Jerrara Dam's suitability as a venue as part of the current study on its future.

"[Jerrara Dam] could be one of the nation's greatest spots for concerts of significant size without having too much of an impact on the area."

The privatisation debate was raised after The Right Direction group told the Kiama Independent there was duplication between council-owned assets and local businesses (Kiama Independent, August 1).

At the forum candidates were asked whether they would support the privatisation of Blue Haven.

The Right Direction candidate, Gavin McClure, said the issue had been subjected to ‘‘political scare-mongering’’ by the Greens, who have included their opposition to privatising Blue Haven in their election material.

‘‘Group F has not ever suggested to sell off Blue Haven – we want to look at the workability and functionality of some of these council-owned assets with the sole function of keeping rates down,’’ he said.

‘‘If Blue Haven’s making a profit, that’s great ...’’

Councillor Brian Petschler said group A would not support privatisation because Blue Haven’s operations did not cost ratepayers.

‘‘Blue Haven is currently independent of ratepayer-funded operations ... It does in fact return a small proportion of the funding from the independent living units,’’ he said.

‘‘It is a significant asset on the council’s balance sheet to assist us in proving our financial viability to stand alone, free from amalgamation.’’

The other teams and ungrouped candidate Mark Way echoed the sentiments, saying privatisation was not on the agenda. 

Councillor Neil Reilly said there was ‘‘no way group C would support selling off any of those assets’’, including Blue Haven, the Kiama Leisure Centre or the council’s caravan parks.

‘‘They’re assets we should be exploiting for the benefit of the community,’’ he said.

Councillor Warren Steel echoed the sentiments, saying that he only wanted to see better marketing for the leisure centre, while ungrouped candidate Mark Way was also in support of keeping Blue Haven.

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