Restoring community consultation will be a top priority for Caitlin Spiller, who will be standing as the lead Greens candidate for central ward in the Port Stephens Council elections scheduled for Saturday, December 4.
Ms Spiller said that a lack of genuine consultation had been one of the many criticisms of the current term of council and this was undermining the trust of ratepayers.
"For example, council changed the DCP (development control plan) to reduce the type and number of DAs (development applications) which require advertising or neighbour notification without consultation," she said.
"Too many decisions are made behind closed doors, where qualified staff application of regulations are ignored and the public are kept in the dark until it is too late for those most effected to have a say.
"I believe most people live here by choice, it's a beautiful area with small, close-knit communities who care about their patch, their neighbours and the environment. Port Stephens residents deserve to be given the opportunities to be heard on where their rates go and how they view new development proposals."
Ms Spiller said the first steps in improving consultation should involve better access for neighbouring residents to information on development applications and an increase in the time allowable for submissions
"We need to restore the publication of notices to the local papers, as well as improve access to information on the council's website. I've had trouble finding information on the website and I've been using computers, websites and databases all my life."
Another issue largely ignored in council planning and development policies, according to Ms Spiller, was the consideration of climate change and its cumulative impacts on community, infrastructure and the environment.
"A Coastal Management Plan is due for release but it needs councillors on board who will ensure its findings are incorporated," she said.
"The koala found on a house frame in Medowie is a stark reminder of the failure to consider the cumulative impacts of the amount of development that has occurred in Medowie in past years.
"Residents are saying they don't want housing developments without local infrastructure to support growing populations."
If elected, Ms Spiller commits to actively seek and listen to ratepayers' concerns - not just from the loudest or most powerful voices.
"I will bring my advocacy experience to the role of councillor, which is first and foremost as a representative for the entire community."
It remains unclear how many candidates will contest central ward.
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