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Clarence Valley News

ALP reveals its candidate for Clarence



ALP reveals its candidate for Clarence

 By Tim Howard

 The head of an agency that has been working on the front lines of disaster recovery in the Northern Rivers has nominated as the ALP candidate for Clarence in next year’s State election.

The CEO of Anglicare North Coast, Leon Ankersmit, has just been endorsed as the ALP as its candidate for the March election.

Mr Ankersmit, who has a PhD in social work concentrating on developing partnerships and collaboration with people working in child protection, believes a Labor government was the best way for the Clarence speed up its recovery from recent setbacks.

He has found his studies have been beneficial to his work with Anglicare helping people recover from the fire, flood and pandemic disasters which have hit the region in the past three years.

He has been dismayed at the slow response from government agencies and their approach and this dismay was his tipping point to get into politics.

Mr Ankersmit said he was not your “typical Labor” candidate.

“I don’t have a union background,” he said “I’ve never been in a union and I don’t go into the socialist stuff.

“Coming into politics I will listen to the voices of the community,” he said.
“Those voices could be individuals, groups, chambers of commerce, councils or large employers.

“Each category will have a voice which will I will listen to. I don’t come with all the answers, but I will represent the voices of the community if I am elected to represent this electorate in Sydney.”

He said one of the most pressing needs in the Clarence electorate was to rebuild the flood ravaged road network.

“Roads are in an atrocious state after the floods and councils are too cash strapped to deal with them,” he said.

“More money has to go to councils to allow them to fix the roads. This is a clear role for an incoming Labor Government.”

He said roads were not the only infrastructure in a bad way in the region.

His work with Anglicare daily brought home the lack of affordable housing in the region.

He said politics “as normal” cannot improve the situation for people struggling with the cost of housing.

“In Australia there used to be a permanent rental population of around 25%,” he said.

“In the past few decades that’s grown to 40%. The problem has been we relied on the private rental market which is subject to the forces of supply and demand.

“As the demand rose and supply didn’t match it the results were high rentals.”

He said there needed to be long and short term changes to turn this trend around.

Long term he would like to see governments support initiatives like Build to Rent, where superannuation funds and corporates were encouraged to invest in community housing.

“In the short term there needs to be change in tenancy laws to give tenants more say,” he said.

“I understand landlords need protection from problem tenants, but tenants need protection from having rents raised so much it forces them onto the street.”

He said fixing the housing crisis would have a massive flow on into other problem areas.

“Families with roofs over their heads are stable and have fewer domestic issues,” he said.

“Kids from stable homes go to school, they’re not as exposed to domestic disputes, they live healthier lifestyles.

“Todays kids are tomorrow’s adults. They will be the ones shaping the future.”

Mr Ankersmit has also been dismayed by the LNP ambivalence toward climate change.

“There are not too many farmers or people working on the land who would say climate change is not happening,” he said.

“The Nationals have got caught up in climate change scepticism and can’t bring themselves to do what’s needed.

“We’ve had major bushfires followed by major floods. We need to plan for events that are going to happen, but The Nationals don’t want to cause too much agitation.”

He said the government response has been far too slow.

“I’ve Just been to Hobart where I was talking with people who had got through the fires in Cobargo,” he said.

“People are still living in tents and temporary accommodation three years later.

“Here the people living in pod cities after the floods are facing living there for years unless things change.”

He said there were some tough decisions facing people in flood prone areas.

“With fires you build to resist fires, but floods you have to decide whether you re-build or move away,” he said.

“We’re not having that conversation. We don’t need to panic, but we need have a conversation and ask those hard questions.”

Mr Ankersmit, whose family lives in Maclean, has been in the Clarence for the past 15 years, with 10 of those working for Anglicare.

“I’ve only joined the Labor Party a few years ago and people ask me why,” he said.

“They say Labor’s wedded to the unions and with union memberships low it has undue influence.

“I would say the other side is wedded to business interests and ask is it reasonable that one side can have collective representation while the other is criticised for it.”

He said his decision comes from a different place.

“When I look at what’s needed to energise the vulnerable and those left behind, Labor has the most to offer them,” he said.

“I have worked for faith-based organisation and people ask me how I justify joining Labor. I see Christianity as fighting for the underdog.

“I’m not a rusted on ideologue, I’ve never been one for unions or socialism.

“Philosophically with my faith I’ve worked with helping people struggling and when I look at politics and ask whose policies best reflect that, it’s Labor.”

Mr Ankersmit’s main opposition is likely to be former Clarence Valley Mayor and radio personality Richie Williamson.

Mr Williamson and current Clarence Valley Councillor Allison Whaites were in a battle for pre-selection for The Nationals, after incumbent Chris Gulaptis announced he would retire at the end of this term in parliament.

Mr Ankersmit said Clarence Valley residents should take heed of polling which showed the LNP Government was on the nose.

A recent poll showed support for ALP at more than 43% and support for the government plummeting 12% to 30%.

“It would be better for Clarence to have a member in a new Minns, ALP government than an inexperienced member in a beaten party transitioning into opposition,” Mr Ankersmit said.

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Clarence Valley News





NSW BUDGET Cost of Living



The NSW Labor Government’s 18 June Budget does nothing to alleviate the growing cost of living problems in the Richmond and Clarence Valleys, although there is some good news for the region, according to Clarence Nationals MP Richie Williamson.

“Everywhere I go, every local I talk to, they all say the same thing: we’re struggling with rising costs – why isn’t the Government helping?” Mr Williamson said.

Mr Williamson said that he was all for working cooperatively with the Government, but there was mounting evidence Sydney Labor is “out of town, out of touch and the budget is out of control”.

“Calls to reinstate the $250 fuel card for regional seniors, students and apprentices have fallen on deaf ears, but Sydney seniors now enjoy $2-a-day Gold Passes on Sydney’s massive and massively subsidised public transport system as well as toll relief for Sydneysiders,” Mr Williamson said.

“Calls to save the Ulmarra ferry from Labor’s axe met a similar fate, at the same time as Labor is buying a fleet of new ferries for Sydney and took over another Sydney ferry service that has lower patronage than Ulmarra to Southgate.”

Mr Williamson did acknowledge the Government’s ongoing funding of the previous Liberals and Nationals Government’s Grafton Base Hospital rebuild, the allocation of $6.2m in the fight against White Spot disease in local rivers as well as a “welcome” $90m boost for the Resilient Homes Program, following the 2022 floods.

“These are crumbs compared to what Labor is lavishing on its Sydney heartland,” Mr Williamson cautioned.

“The Richmond and Clarence Valleys provide the timber for Sydney homes, the beef for Sydney dinners as well as the sugar and milk for Sydney cappuccinos.

“That needs to be acknowledged and we deserve our fair share,” Mr Williamson concluded.”


For more Richmond Valley news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

At last. Shirley Adams gets her Way




Shirley Adams Way Sign

At last. Shirley Adams gets her Way


By Tim Howard

A jarring anomaly that has irked Clarence Valley residents from the moment it was first unveiled is about to be rectified.

Next month the name of the road that crosses the Balun Bindarray Bridge in Grafton will be changed from Shirley Way to Shirley Adams Way, finally giving correct recognition of the first female mayor of Grafton and a community champion.

Since November 2022 the section or road has been signposted as Shirley Way, setting off protests from every level of the community.

It has taken concerted efforts from Mrs Adam’s husband John, daughter Virginia, Clarence MP Richie Williamson and the Clarence Valley Council to get naming authority the Geographical Names Board to accept the community’s wishes.

The Adams family requested the approaches be renamed “Shirley Adams Way” to properly recognise Shirley Adams and ensure her memory lives on.

But the board refused the original request to use Mrs Adams full name because it had only recently introduced a ruling banning two word names because of the risk of confusion when directing emergency services units to specific addresses.

Since coming to office in March 2023, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison kickstarted a special process to allow for Shirley Way to be renamed Shirley Adams Way, in line with the family’s request.

After a public consultation took place earlier this year, Minister Aitchison last week approved the change in name and Shirley Adams Way will be the new name of the road from late July.

The minister said Ms Adams was the first female mayor of the then Grafton City Council, a former Jacaranda Queen, Jacaranda Festival President in 1976 and 1977, a Jacaranda Festival life member and was deeply involved in NSW Girl Guides, the United Hospital Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, Clarence River Historical Society, Country Women’s Association, and many other organisations.

She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1989.

“Last week I was pleased to approve the renaming of Shirley Way in Grafton to Shirley Adams Way,” Minister Aitchison said.

“This is a fitting tribute to Shirley Adams OAM who served as Grafton’s first female mayor and was also the first woman to lead the Country Mayor’s Association of NSW.

“In recognition of her services to local government and the Girl Guide Movement, Ms Adams also received a medal in the Order of Australia (OAM).”

Former Grafton Mayor Shirley Adams, with her husband John Adams

Former Grafton Mayor Shirley Adams, who died in June 2020, with her husband John Adams. Mr Adams has lobbied the government tirelessly for the name change on the bridge approaches.

The Minister said renaming the road was something she had supported since it first came to her attention.

“To honour Shirley’s legacy, it’s only right we rename this road, she said. “It’s come after years of campaigning and advocacy and is a great win for Shirley’s family and the broader Clarence Valley community.

“Everyone has always wanted the road to be renamed Shirley Adams Way and I am pleased that the NSW Labor Government has been able to make this happen.”

Ms Aitchison said the number of submissions calling for the change had been “overwhelming”.

“Given this and the special place Shirley Adams holds in the hearts of Clarence Valley community, I felt renaming the road to Shirley Adams Way was a simple, common sense way to honour the memory and legacy of a trailblazing woman,” she said.

“I am in awe of Shirley’s service to the Grafton and Clarence Valley communities.

“In coming weeks Transport for NSW will install new signage to mark the changing of the road name and the team will work with relevant organisations to notify them of the change.”

The minister has also reached out to the Adams family to notify them of the impending changes.

“I’ve spoken to Shirley’s daughter Virginia and she is just thrilled, she said.

“I’m looking forward to visiting Grafton to meet with Shirley’s family and friends to celebrate the renaming of the road when the new signs go up.

There has been bi-partisan support for the change, with the Minister acknowledging the work of Mr Williamson.

“I want to thank Richie Williamson MP and the Clarence Valley Council for their ongoing advocacy,” she said.

Mr Williamson said the change “just makes sense”.

“The name Shirley Adams is synonymous not only in Grafton but across the Clarence Valley and it is a fitting tribute to a remarkable lady and a dear friend who was a staunch advocate not only for her local community, but in encouraging women’s participation in public life and decision making,” he said.

“Shirley had a burning desire to make Grafton a better place and had a genuine love for the people of the city.”

Mr Williamson said the family would be relieved that the right decision had finally been made.

“I know her husband John Adams OAM and family are incredibly proud as is the community of Shirley’s legacy,” he said.

“The renaming of the road is a fitting tribute in honour and recognition of her service to local government, the girl guide movement and the wider community, and I look forward to the road officially being renamed with her family in the very near future.”


For more local Grafton news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

Plan to turn ferry loss into $8.9mil windfall




Ulmarra Ferry Windall

Plan to turn ferry loss into $8.9mil windfall


By Tim Howard

A plan has been hatched to turn the Clarence Valley’s loss of the Ulmarra Ferry service earlier this month into an $8.9 million windfall.

A report from the Clarence Valley Council general manager Laura Black to the June council meeting on Tuesday said the loss of the ferry was a chance for the council to “advocate for compensatory funds” to fund infrastructure in the region.

Ms Black’s report noted the Transport for NSW advised the cost of replacing the ferry would have been $4million with annual running costs of more than $800,000 annually.

“Total funds sought are $8,883,950, to be allocated to Clarence Valley Council,” the report read.

The recommendation to the council was

That Council:

  1. writes to Local State Member Richie Williamson seeking his support in advocating for an allocation of funds to the Clarence Valley in lieu of continuation of the Ulmarra to Southgate Ferry service by Transport NSW.
  2. writes to the Minister for Regional Transport, the Hon. Jenny Aitchison requesting:
    1. funding totalling $8,883,950 to enable the upgrade of 5kms of Lawrence Road from Great Marlow to Grafton and, completion of the Ulmarra Riverside Precinct Bailey Park connectivity and Small Park upgrade and, completion of the Grafton Waterfront Precinct from Clarence Street to the Grafton Bridge.
    2. Transport NSW prioritises its commitment to design and deliver pedestrian access across Big River Way in the town of Ulmarra to facilitate connectivity in the town.
    3. Funds be made available to Transport NSW to prioritise the upgrade of the Pound and Villiers Street intersection to a signalised intersection as this is both a residual matter relating to the Grafton Bridge duplication and an intersection that will experience increased vehicular movements as a result of cessation of the Ulmarra to Southgate Ferry.

The report said a number of key projects in receipt of government funding had been underfunded.

For example the 5km Lawrence Rd – Great Marlow Rd to Grafton project had received $2.212 million, but the construction estimate was $7,341 mil, more than $5 million short of the mark.

Two projects in Ulmarra, the refurbishment of the riverside precinct of Bailey Park and the showground, Small Park were also in need of extra funding.

A full report on the council decision will appear in a future edition of The Northern Rivers Times.


For more local Clarence Valley news, click here.

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