TWELVE CANDIDATES have nominated to stand for election to the Upper Hunter Shire Council in 2021.
Residents of the Upper Hunter Shire will head to the polls as part of the statewide NSW Local Government Elections on Saturday, December 4 2021.
Four members of the previous council elected in 2016 are not running for re-election, including former Upper Hunter Mayor Wayne Bedggood who resigned as mayor and councillor in June, 2020 and former councillor Joshua Brown who resigned from the council in November 2020 after accepting a new job in Western Australia.
Incumbent Deputy Mayor Kiwa Fisher and councillor Lorna Driscoll, both from Aberdeen, did not nominate to stand for re-election.
Voters will elect nine councillors from the 12 nominated candidates using a preferential voting method.
The elected councillors will then meet in 2022 to determine the next Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Upper Hunter Shire Council.
The Scone Advocate attempted to reach out to all candidates to provide them with an opportunity to introduce themselves to voters ahead of election day.
The council candidates are displayed in the order they will appear on the ballot paper.
Meet the Candidates: Upper Hunter Shire
Incumbent councillor Sue Abbott said she moved to Scone with her husband in 1983 from London (via Glen Innes) and has lived in the region ever since.
Ms Abbott described her background as being in nursing, law and journalism and also as a mother and 'granny'.
Ms Abbott has served as an Upper Hunter Councillor for the past five years since her election in 2016 and also ran as a candidate for The Greens in the 2021 Upper Hunter state by-election, receiving 3.47 per cent of the first preference vote.
If elected, Ms Abbott said her priorities on the council would be community, trees, libraries, transparency, accountability, ease of access to freedom of information, gender equity, footpaths and bicycle lanes.
Allison McPhee said her family is from the Upper Hunter Shire and she also grew up in the area.
"I am the fourth generation to work on our family property located past Gundy. I also teach at a local high school," Ms McPhee said.
"Both my parents are from farming backgrounds. I grew up in Scone, and helped out on the farm on the weekends and during school holidays.
"I initially attained a Bachelor in Education (Mathematics), and have since then completed a Masters in Linguistics and a Masters in Business Administration."
Ms McPhee said she has experience in education and publishing and spent a number of years living overseas and in Melbourne before returning to Scone in 2019.
"Since returning to the area, I have become an active member of the CWA, RFS Gundy Brigade and Scone Triathlon Club," Ms McPhee said.
Ms McPhee said she was standing for election because the Upper Hunter Shire is a diverse area which needs to be represented by someone who understands its diversity.
"I am committed to this region and want to see it thrive through local initiatives which are enabled through a goal oriented and strategic thinking council," she said.
If elected, Ms McPhee said her focus would be on projects which promote local business and enhance our region for the Upper Hunter Shire residents.
"Sport facilities, events for local businesses and roads are my top agenda items," she said.
Adam Williamson said he arrived in the Upper Hunter 15 years ago as his wife, Marcia, wished to return to the area to be close to family and her equestrian connections.
"I worked in Merriwa for two years with Alexander Downs, moving to the thoroughbred industry 13 years ago," Mr Williamson said.
"I am currently farm manager at Vinery Stud and previously I was farm manager at Segenhoe."
Mr Williamson said his background was in corporate agriculture, working in the beef industry while studying for a Bachelor of Business.
"With a lifelong passion for agriculture (inherited from my English-born farming father) I have been part of the family contract harvesting operation, run a lucerne and cattle farm at Dartbrook, and now an agricultural machinery business," he said.
Mr Williamson said he was standing for election to the Upper Hunter Shire Council because he wants to help guide the region's future so that local industries, businesses and people continue to flourish.
"The Upper Hunter has so much to offer and is such a great community to raise our two young boys," he said.
"I believe the Upper Hunter has huge agricultural potential and that my diverse agricultural education and management experience offers a different perspective among Councilors."
If elected, Mr Williamson nominated successful completion of the Scone CBD revitalisation project as one of his top priorities.
"As well as agriculture, tourism will be vital for advancement of the Upper Hunter, especially in recovery from drought and pandemic," Mr Williamson said.
"Securing funding for the repair and upgrade of our network of regional roads is also a high priority.
"I will also be working in close consultation with the Merriwa, Murrurundi and Aberdeen communities, to ensure that they have a much-needed voice to Council."
Belinda McKenzie said she has lived with her family in the Upper Hunter for 40 years.
"I have two adult children and two grandchildren here. My husband is now retired after being a plant operator 45 years," Ms McKenzie said.
"My boys have grown up here, water-skiing on Lake Glenbawn, playing soccer, playing tennis and have been heavily involved with the community in which we live.
"They now have children growing and being educated in this Shire."
Her family chose to live in the Upper Hunter Shire because of its many natural attributes, great education and diverse sporting opportunities as well as wonderful communities that have spirit and are welcoming, Ms McKenzie said.
Ms McKenzie said she was employed as the Tourism Officer and Manager Tourism for the Upper Hunter Shire Council for close to 18 years.
"After leaving Council I was a Project Officer for Men Health in the UHS, and on occasions I can be seen on a weekend at the Singleton Visitor Information Centre promoting tourism," she said.
"I am currently the Personal Assistant to the CEO of the Australian Stock Horse Society in Scone and when available I am a part-time teacher of tourism at Hunter TAFE through the CLC network.
"In my spare time I have the pleasure of conducting many weddings and naming ceremonies in the Shire as an authorized celebrant."
Ms McKenzie said she was running for council as she felt it was time to give back and contribute to the Shire and its communities by "assisting Council to recognise and implement strategies that strengthen economic development and tourism, support the health and wellbeing of residents, recognise the individual attributes of the towns and villages and allow them flourish and strengthen their uniqueness and not forget the importance of a safe and well maintained road network."
"Our Shire tourism operators have suffered from COVID and in some cases the by-pass. We need to promote our attributes and encourage overnights stay or package visitation opportunities also supported by new events," she said.
"I believe each town and village are unique and should be marketed as such. I don't believe it's a one size fits all approach.
"We have a rich tapestry of attributes which is very valuable to the Shire as a whole and we can't live without safe roads and bridges."
Patricia 'Trish' Taylor said she has lived in the Upper Hunter shire for over 30 years after visiting the region for a holiday and marrying a local man who was born in the area.
Ms Taylor said she raised all three of her children in the area and she and her husband own a property in Moonan Flat.
"I have worked as a teacher's aide, in the hospitality industry and in retail," Ms Taylor said.
"Currently I am working with people with disabilities and I am a mental health first aider.
"I have also been a volunteer and held office positions on many committees including school P&C, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, King of the Ranges and Moonan Flat Tennis Club and I am also an avid photographer."
Ms Taylor said she had decided to stand for election because she believed the council needed fresh faces and fresh ideas.
"Over the past few years I have watched this shire go backward and become very non-answerable to their constituents," she said.
"I've seen too many projects go wrong and money wasted. I believe in an open and transparent council and that is not we have right now."
Ms Taylor said if elected, her priority was to be a voice for the entire Shire rather than one town or one or two groups of people.
Other priorities she listed included roads, transparency of council, finances, supporting the community and groups within the Shire and tourism.
"In order for me to do this I will need others on council that are willing to work as a team for the benefit of our Shire," Ms Taylor said.
"Councillors and Council need to work as a team and there is no 'I' in team."
Tayah Clout said she has a strong connection to the Upper Hunter Shire and has lived in the region for the vast majority of her life.
"I attended both primary and high school locally, and since university have been back on the family property in Kars Springs," Ms Clout said.
"My ties to the area have been fully cemented through working in both the local thoroughbred industry and co-running the family merino sheep and cattle property.
"Over the years I have been involved in numerous sporting activities locally, from pony club as a child through to women's rugby, basketball and touch football more recently."
Describing herself as a fifth generation merino wool grower, Ms Clout said she graduated from the University of New England after having completed a Bachelor of Criminology.
"After returning to the land I completed my Wool Classing certificate at Scone TAFE. Having endured the last drought, I am more convinced that agriculture depends on the environment, and the need to protect biodiversity," she said.
"I have worked part time at Vinery Stud for the past four years, and prior to that in shearing sheds out west, as well as in hospitality at various venues in Scone."
Ms Clout said she was running for council as the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of having strong leaders at every level of government.
"These leaders must act with accountability and competence and make decisions that enhance everyone's quality of life throughout the Shire, while not unnecessarily increasing the future debt burden on projects that do not benefit all," Ms Clout said.
"I would like to see more women, especially women in agriculture, have a more active role in local governance, hence my standing in this election.
"I believe I have the ability and integrity to perform the required duties as a Councillor."
If elected, Ms Clout said her she would prioritise a more effective delivery of council projects and services.
"A major priority would also be rural roads and their infrequent maintenance," she said.
"I would like to see more community education programs, particularly in regards to IT, at all the towns in the Shire.
"As the pandemic showed us, modern life is dependent upon access to and knowledge of technology.
"This includes not just classes, but maintaining the Upper Hunter Shire's library network with both books and free access to technology."
Christopher North is standing as a candidate for the Upper Hunter Shire Council and said he moved to the region with his family from Sydney.
"In 2013 whilst living in Sydney my wife bought a horse from a local family and has absolutely loved area ever since," Mr North said.
"When I was being medically discharged from the military, we decided to move to the Upper Hunter Shire and eventually bought our small farm from the family that we bought the horse from."
Mr North said he had enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy at the age of 16 after leaving high school.
"I had multiple deployments and was an Electronics Technician that specialised in the operation and maintenance of ship-borne weapons systems, in particular naval guns," Mr North said.
"I was injured during service and required spinal surgery. This injury did not allow me to continue serving our country so I was medically discharged in 2015."
Mr North said since 2015 he has been a stay at home dad to his two young children and looks after the family's small farm.
"I also volunteered for Disaster Relief Australia responding to the recovery efforts following the devastating bushfires during 2019/2020, especially around Kempsey and Cobargo," Mr North said.
Mr North said he had nominated as a candidate as he believed he could make the shire a better place to live and work for future generations.
"The naval values of Honour, Honesty, Courage, Integrity and Loyalty are not just words to me, but are a way of life that I have lived for over 15 years," Mr North said.
Mr North said his priorities if elected to council would be to improve the condition of roads, provide access to affordable childcare across the Upper Hunter, improve the quality of council services in all areas of the Shire, assist businesses to start or relocate to the region and to find ways to improve access to medical services in the area.
Incumbent Upper Hunter Shire Councillor Lee Watts is standing for re-election to the council in 2021.
Ms Watts said her family moved to Scone more than 50 years ago.
"My dad, Bill Jordan, managed the local pool and I, with my family, worked in the kiosk," Ms Watts said.
"I went to school and played sports here. I met and married my husband Colin here, raised my daughter Jaala here and now I enjoy watching my grandchildren growing up here."
Ms Watts said she has managed the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre for more than 25 years, working for and with the community to advocate for disadvantaged families to "ensure they are heard and treated fairly".
Ms Watts said she was running for council again because she believes that "when something needs to be done, you should get in and do it; not wait for someone else to do it."
"For 17 years I've served on this Council representing everyone that is a part of the area, listening and working to improve the lives of the people living and using local services and infrastructure," she said.
"I have decided to stand again as I believe l have the passion and the energy to represent this community for another term if elected."
If elected, Ms Watts said her priorities would include reassessing the road network in the Upper Hunter Shire to ensure roads are on the correct level and receiving the required upgrades to meet their level of use.
Other priorities for Ms Watts include safe and up-to-date recreational outlets in all areas of the Shire and ensuring Council includes everyone to the same access of information and resources.
"Too often our senior members and other abilities are excluded," Ms Watts said.
Merriwa farmer and incumbent councillor Ron Campbell is standing for re-election to the Upper Hunter Shire Council in 2021.
First elected to the Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016, in the most recent council Mr Campbell has served on the council's Corporate Services Committee, the Development and Environmental Services Committee and the Infrastructure Services Committee.
"I have been a landowner since 1962, owning with my family a farm in the Merriwa area," Mr Campbell said.
"I have two married sons at home managing the farm, which is a mixed grazing and farming enterprise."
Mr Campbell said prior to his election to council his background had always been in agriculture.
"My background is very much farming and grazing, and also in the community on various committees," he said.
"I've been on the committees of NSW Farmers and the Field Days and I was a director on the Hunter LLS (Local Land Services) for six years and prior to that I was on the pasture protection board and on the Central North LHPA (Livestock Health and Pest Authority).
"My background has always been in agriculture."
Mr Campbell said he was running for council because there were many council projects he would like to see completed.
"There are many projects that I would like to see that would advance things in Merriwa and the Cassilis area, because that's where I live, but also in the whole Shire," Mr Campbell said.
"We've got so many good projects that we would like to get up and running and I'd like to seem them to their fruition.
"Projects here in Merriwa and Cassilis that will upgrade the facilities and make them more attractive for tourism and overnight stays and also to progress things regarding the road system."
Mr Campbell said a particular priority would be ensure problems with the MR358 Merriwa to Willow Tree road were rectified.
"I want to see that through to fruition because that is vital, especially to this western area of our Shire," he said.
"My other priorities are progressing community concerns to address those and to see them come to completion.
"The roads in particular are my real concern and ever since I've been on council, we've tried very hard to make our roads and our access better."
Outside of the council, Mr Campbell has also served as chair of the Merriwa Festival of the Fleeces Committee.
Elizabeth Flaherty is standing for election to the Upper Hunter Shire Council in 2021 and said she is proud to say her daughters are now seventh generation locals to the area.
"My connection to this area runs deep and there is no better place to raise my family," Ms Flaherty said.
Ms Flaherty said for the past five years she has operated the scone.com.au website, reporting on "the things which matter most to our community."
"I began my career working in media, before becoming an issues management advisor to state government and private sector in Sydney," Ms Flaherty said.
"But when it came time to raise my family, I returned home and now enjoy watching my daughters growing up in the same tight knit community I was lucky enough to enjoy."
Ms Flaherty said she was running for council because she had become disillusioned by how "out-of-step Council has become with the community."
"Council exists to serve our community, but Council's priorities haven't aligned with our community's needs," she said.
"From wasting $15,000 on a blue string horse, to millions on a Taj Mahal at the Scone airport and mismanaging major projects like the Merriwa-Willow Tree Road, costing residents and ratepayers millions.
"Irresponsible spending must stop and responsible governance must start."
If elected, Ms Flaherty said her priorities would be making the council accountable and transparent.
"Stopping reckless spending and focusing on things we all need: better roads, better basic infrastructure, a fair share for all our towns and villages, support for community groups and community services," she said.
"To clean up Council I can't do it on my own, we need a majority of like-minded community people."
The incumbent Mayor of Upper Hunter Shire Council, Maurice Collison is standing for re-election at the 2021 NSW local government elections.
Mr Collison was first elected to the Upper Hunter Shire Council in 2012 before being elected Deputy Mayor in 2015.
Following the resignation of former Mayor Wayne Bedggood in 2020, Mr Collison was elected to the mayoral position by his fellow councillors.
A grazier from Woolooma, Mr Collison said he had been mainly on the farm for most of his life.
"I did a short stint in the coal mines during the high interest rates, but since then I've been mostly back on the farm working and for the last nine years on council striving to make the Upper Hunter a bigger and better place," Mr Collison said.
Mr Collison said he was running for council again as he was passionate about the Upper Hunter Shire.
"I'm the third generation of the Collison name to help represent the Upper Hunter in local government," he said.
"My main reason for doing another term is that there's so much that I believe the Shire needs and I pushed very hard for a lot of things to happen.
"We've got some unfinished business and I would like to follow through as a representative of the Upper Hunter until we get a lot of those projects completed."
If re-elected, Mr Collison said his priorities on the new council would be on improving the standard of rural roads.
"The highest priority on the council for me is our rural roads and it's no secret, it has been like this for many, many years," he said.
"In the council budget this year, we put an additional $2 million specifically into re-sheeting rural roads and trying to fix the drainage.
"We all know country and towns go hand in hand, we've both got to work together and we're going to make it both work."
Incumbent Upper Hunter Shire Councillor James Burns is standing for re-election at the 2021 NSW local government elections.
First elected to council in 2016, Mr Burns said he was born in the Upper Hunter and grew up in the region, attending school and becoming involved in the area's sporting communities.
"I left for a time to serve in the Royal Australian Navy but returned after my service and my family have settled back here," Mr Burns said.
"My children attend schools in the Upper Hunter Shire, and my wife is a small business owner here in Scone."
Mr Burns said his career had long been one of service, having previously worked as a combat systems operator in the navy.
"Unfortunately, I had to part ways with the service due to a medical issue," Mr Burns said.
"But I count myself lucky to have been able to serve in an organisation that still values the tradition of service before self."
Mr Burns said he was extremely proud of the five years he had spent as an Upper Hunter Shire councillor.
"I am running again to see the job done and continue the governance of a great team in the staff," he said.
"We have had issues throughout the term and it is important that we learn from them and ensure that debacles like that of MR358 (Willow Tree to Merriwa Road Upgrade) don't happen again."
Mr Burns said if re-elected, his priority would be to continue the work the current council has started and build on plans for future venues.
"Projects like the Scone CBD Revitilisation, which has not broken ground yet due to funding issues, and working with the Bill Rose Complex Users Group to build a new masterplan for the Complex and start to generate momentum to execute those plans," Mr Burns said.