Ben Niland and Leah Anderson come forward as Port Stephens local government election candidates, current councillors state their case

CONTENDERS: Ben Niland, 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year, and Leah Anderson, a board member and volunteer at Port Stephens Koalas, have declared their intention to run for council at the September elections.
CONTENDERS: Ben Niland, 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year, and Leah Anderson, a board member and volunteer at Port Stephens Koalas, have declared their intention to run for council at the September elections.

Port Stephens Council could be in for a shake-up when the local government elections take place later this year.

With the poll less than five months away [September 4, 2021], it remains a mystery as to how many of the current 10 councillors would be seeking re-election after a torrid last two years which has seen Port Stephens plagued by drought, a pandemic and more recently floods.

What is clear is that there will be vacancies in both east and central wards with the decisions from long serving representatives John Nell and Steve Tucker not to re-contest the 2021 election.

The Examiner contacted the remaining eight councillors through their council email on Thursday, providing them an opportunity to indicate whether or not they would be seeking re-election, and by deadline on Tuesday only a handful had responded.

Mayor Ryan Palmer said that the election was not even on his radar at the moment.

"What is important to me is being able to support the community through the recovery period of the recent severe weather events and the ongoing effects of COVID-19. I will continue to work as hard as possible and engage all the relevant authorities first and foremost to ensure our community has all the support it needs to recover before thinking about an election," he said.

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer has not declared whether he will run for a second council term.

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer has not declared whether he will run for a second council term.

Likewise, east ward's Glen Dunkley was noncommittal.

"At this stage I'm continuing to focus on the recovery from the recent weather event and ensuring we get the quickest recovery possible for Port Stephens... I am focused on continuing to work on delivering the great projects the community has asked us for during this current term," he said.

Cr Chris Doohan said that he would be running again in central ward.

"I have worked hard to see some great things achieved in this term of council, yet I believe there is more to be done. I'm keen to see stage two of Robinson Reserve Skate Park and I am proud of the Medowie Social success since its opening," he said.

"I will continue my pursuit to get Campvale Drain brought up to standard and road improvements in Medowie and Tilligerry peninsula. Accountability of council is critical, and I remain committed to ensure that is upheld at all times."

Labor's Giacomo Arnott will again stand for west ward.

"I've spent the last four years being someone you can trust, working to build our community and protect our most vulnerable," he said.

"I've held your elected representatives to account, and stopped a $800 increase to your rate bills. I want to be re-elected alongside others who will take this council and your trust seriously, so I can continue this work and improve Port Stephens."

Deputy mayor Paul Le Mottee said he intends to stand again for west ward.

"My three main priorities are rural areas by continuing to work for state and federal funding; Raymond Terrace and surrounds by working through the Raymond Terrace and Heatherbrae Strategy; and support Fern Bay, Fullerton Cove, Williamtown and Tomago with the untold possibilities for employment and education in high tech areas," he said.

Port Stephens Koalas volunteer and Business Port Stephens president Leah Anderson has declared her intention to stand for east ward in the September election.

Port Stephens Koalas volunteer and Business Port Stephens president Leah Anderson has declared her intention to stand for east ward in the September election.

Also declaring her intention to stand for east ward is Business Port Stephens president Leah Anderson, who has been working on behalf of Tomaree businesses in various roles for many years, including as founder of the Port Stephens Women in Business 12 years ago and for the last four years as president of Business Port Stephens in 2020.

She is also a board member and volunteer at Port Stephens Koalas.

"I am a proud Rotarian of 12 years and I am passionate about working together to support our community. I have decided to stand in east ward because in that time I have been hearing from the community that they still feel the council could improve on community consultation, transparency, listening to the needs of the people, and working towards delivering what ratepayers expect," she said.

Ms Anderson said that her experience in the financial sector would be of great value in making council decisions.

Also throwing his hat in the ring in west ward is longtime resident and 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year Ben Niland, who moved to Raymond Terrace as a nine year old in 1989 and has resided in, and/or owned property in, Medowie since 1994.

He was part of the Medowie Social steering committee, has served on numerous council committees and sports committees.

"I believe my small business background and service to the council's Audit Committee will serve business, residents and council well as it navigates the post-COVID era," he said.

Information on the local government elections to be held on September 4 can be found at elections.nsw.gov.au/Elections/Local-government-elections.

From the mouths of the candidates and councillors

Deputy mayor Paul Le Mottee said he intends to stand again for west ward.

Deputy mayor Paul Le Mottee said he intends to stand again for west ward.

Cr Paul Le Mottee's (west ward) three main priorities are:

Rural areas: I continue to push for at least 1 km of gravel road to be upgraded to sealed roads each year. At a cost of $1 million per kilometre and with 50 km of gravel roads, it is a slow process. I will continue to work for state and federal funding to accelerate this program because 50 years is just way too long. It all would have been done within seven years if the SRV had been put in place.

Raymond Terrace and surrounds: There is a document called the Raymond Terrace and Heatherbrae Strategy that has a lot of steps in it that are being worked through to transform Raymond Terrace into a proper Regional Town as required by the State Government Department of Planning. There is also the King Park Master Plan and more recently, the (main street upgrade) plan. It is my priority to continue to press for funding to progress through the items listed in those documents to truly transform Raymond Terrace into the pace it deserves to be."

Fern Bay, Fullerton Cove, Williamtown and Tomago: There is a great deal of excitement around these areas. Newcastle Airport is hoping to get federal funding in the May budget to expand the runway to make it capable of wide-bodied aircraft utilising the runway. That opens up all kinds of opportunities for flights to overseas destinations and I will continue to push for this funding. In addition to that, a significant area around the airport is about to be declared a Special Activation Precinct and that will create untold possibilities for employment and education in high tech areas. Apart from seeking out and attracting businesses to work in the aerospace industry, I will also be trying to persuade the University and TAFE to open campuses in or near the precinct. Tomago continues to grow with recent large developments like the AGL Gas Storage facility and now the possibility of a Gas Fired Power Station and these are developments on which I sit on a panel called the Community Consultation Committee. This committee monitors the running of the existing Gas Storage Facility and monitors the progress of the application for the Power Station. In terms of Fern Bay and Fullerton Cove, it is good to see that infrastructure such as shared pathways are being put in place to properly link Fern Bay and Stockton and it is also good to see that things are being properly and thoughtfully reused such as the long defunct rifle range being rezoned for additional housing. In summary, it is my priority to give of my time, expertise and experience to steer all these exciting things to an outcome that is hugely beneficial for the people of Port Stephens.

Cr Chris Doohan says he will again stand for central ward at the September 4 elections.

Cr Chris Doohan says he will again stand for central ward at the September 4 elections.

Cr Chris Doohan (central ward) said:

I have worked hard to see some great things achieved in this term of council, yet I believe there is more to be done. I'm keen to see stage two of the Robinson Reserve Skate Park , and further development of the Anna Bay All Abilities Park.

I am extremely proud of how the Medowie Social success is the talk of the town. The Medowie Makeover is coming soon, and I'd like to ensure that future improvements in Medowie are identified and pursued in the next term. Boyd Oval Rugby Club facility is one I am adamant about, as well as progressing a regional all age park for the area. I will continue my pursuit to get Campvale Drain brought up to standard and the same with road improvements. Ferodale and Lissadel to name a couple. It's great to see so many paths going in around our area, and I will be pushing for more of the same.

The Tilligery peninsula will have my support to get their parks, roads, paths and community facilities improved, and I want to push for more bus shelters for our LGA. Bobs Farm and Salt Ash are also on my radar, especially for road improvements.

Accountability of council is critical, and I remain committed to ensure that is upheld at all times. I'm really looking forward to what the next term of council can bring, and believe that the people of Port Stephens and moreover the Central Ward have faith in me and my passion for improving this wonderful part of our country.

Ben Niland after being named 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year.

Ben Niland after being named 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year.

From Ben Niland (west ward candidate):

"I am a longtime Port Stephens resident and 2019 Port Stephens Citizen of the Year. I moved to Raymond Terrace as a nine year old in 1989, living in and owning property in Medowie since 1994 (with the exception of a period in the mid-2000s when work took me to regional NSW and to work with the UN in Afghanistan). I was part of the steering committee of the Medowie Sports and Community Club which has recently opened as the highly successful Medowie Social; have served on numerous council committees and sports committees in Port Stephens; and was an outspoken opponent of the Newcastle-Port Stephens Council merger."

Mr Niland runs his own small business out of the area. He holds Bachelor and Masters level civil engineering qualifications and was Project Manager of the Bobs Farm to Anna Bay duplication of Nelson Bay Rd. He believes his small business background and service to the Council's Audit Committee will serve business, residents and council well as it navigates the postCOVID era. He is also a sponsor of many sports teams locally.

"People might think that council is about the 3Rs - Rates, Roads and Rubbish. I will be adding two more: Recreation and Respect for the ratepayers. On top of getting our roads, rubbish and drainage right, I want people to be able to access more paths and parks across the Port and to deliver improved Recreation facilities. I will also be ensuring more Respect for ratepayers if the people of West Ward see fit to give me the honour of being their councillor. I will be releasing a swathe of new ideas in the lead up to the election," Mr Niland said.

Cr Giacomo Arnott will be seeking a second term in west ward.

Cr Giacomo Arnott will be seeking a second term in west ward.

Cr Giacomo Arnott (west Ward) said:

I've spent the last four years being someone you can trust, working to build our community and protect our most vulnerable. I've held your elected representative to account, and stopped a $800 increase to your rate bills. I want to be re-elected alongside others who will take this council and your trust seriously, so I can continue this work and improve Port Stephens. We've had a stagnant few years with back flips and elected representatives ignoring the community, with many horrific decisions being made. With your support I've been shining a light on all of this, and I will always fight for you and be someone you can trust.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: