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Eurobodalla and Queanbeyan elect new mayors among fresh faces | The Canberra Times

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Mathew Hatcher was recently elected as Eurobodalla’s new mayor, one of several progressives from the region getting involved in local politics for the first time. The 39-year-old became the shire’s youngest mayor this month, replacing Liz Innes who was beaten by Fiona Kotvojs in a Liberal preselection battle for the state seat of Bega. Cr Hatcher said Eurobodalla Shire Council will welcome seven new faces who will bring fresh energy to tackle the big challenges the region is currently facing. “I think coming off the back of COVID, we were always going to see a shift in the type of people running for council,” he said. “There’s definitely an understanding that focusing on our neighborhood and our community, working with small business and seeing how that money filters back through the local economy is really important.” Cr Hatcher ran alongside fellow Batemans Bay Business Chamber member Amber Schutz, who, at 34 years old, will be Eurobodalla’s youngest councillor. An architect, Cr Schutz said resilience against the impacts of climate change and preparedness against future global disasters would be important issues. She said part of her motivation for running had been a feeling the community wasn’t being heard by the last council. “I have a fairly firm belief that if you’re seeing things you’re not happy with, you should put yourself forward and do something about it rather than sitting back and complaining,” she said. Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council will go from having two female councillors to a majority of women. The six females include the council’s first Indigenous woman, in newly elected deputy mayor Esma Livermore. Incoming mayor Kenrick Winchester said the pale, stale and male days of council were over. “A majority female council will be the first one we’ve had – that’s a huge change,” Cr Winchester said. “It definitely feels like a younger crowd, but whether or not that leads to more progressive initiatives is yet to be seen.” At 38, Cr Winchester has become the youngest mayor for his region in more than 100 years. He said the average age of the council was now mid-40s, compared with the late-50s average age of the previous council. In addition to the newly elected councillors for Queanbeyan, chief executive officer Peter Tegart has resigned, leaving a vacancy the council will soon vote to fill. “That’s going to be the first major decision to be taken, as it’s obviously very important that we get it right,” Cr Winchester said. Bega Valley Shire bucked the trend for the region by re-electing mayor Russell Fitzpatrick and deputy mayor Liz Seckold, both listing affordable housing among the priorities for the region. Bega welcomed four new councillors in addition to the five returning, with a majority female council for 2022. At 28 years old, the newly elected Karen Wright will be the youngest Bega councillor. A foster carer assessor for Anglicare Australia, Cr Wright said she counts herself as one of the progressives and a voice for Bega Valley’s young people. “There’s not enough for youth in the region in terms of infrastructure and employment opportunities,” she said. “The housing crisis is probably the biggest thing here, and I want to have an impact on that. “I think we’re a good mix of conservative and less conservative.” In Batemans Bay, Cr Hatcher has created a mayoral Facebook page to better communicate with the public, and will make the streaming of all council meetings top of the agenda when council sits for the first time in February. “We want to see councils be open and transparent,” Cr Hatcher said. “The previous council voted to get rid of webcasting certain parts of the council meeting, but my opinion is we’ve got to provide access to everything. “We want to see where our money is being spent, and we want a say in what services we have locally and [to] know how to push money towards that. “I think we’re going to have a more energetic council that are looking to make a huge impact on social issues in the region, and after the bushfires and COVID that’s something we clearly need to address.” READ MORE: He said COVID had stalled the region’s bushfire recovery, and the impact of the fires would be front and centre of the council’s concerns. Like elsewhere along the South Coast, Cr Hatcher said Eurobodalla was facing a housing crisis which was not being given the attention it deserved. “The reality is we’ve got zero rentals available and we lost 500-plus houses after the fires,” he said. “Pre-COVID we had around 850 short-term rentals in the shire; right now we’ve got over 1200. “For the next 18 to 24 months we really need as many people as possible to rent their house to a local family. “Otherwise we’re not going to have staff who can afford to work in cafes, and restaurants, and other businesses, being able to afford to live here.” Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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