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Blue Mountains
City Council Election
4 December 2021
an environmental perspective of the election

Questionnaire Response - Ward 1

There are three "lead" candidates in Ward 1. Of these three candidates, only Kevin Schreiber (Liberal) failed to respond.

The candidates' full response to our questionnaire is listed below. Candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot paper.

Please note that personal identification has been redacted in the responses.
Preface

What follows is a tabulation of the candidate's responses to the questionnaire to allow a comparison.

Candidates were asked to answer each question with a "yes" or "no" - there being no assumed answer if left blank.

The last item in the questionnaire - a statement of personal conservation values - is provided first.


Personal conservation values
If elected, what will you do for the environment? Outline one or more projects/issues that you intend to work on. Limit 100 words.
Kevin Schreiber  (Liberal)
 
Suzie Van Opdorp  (Labor)
My background as a social worker is in health, social and community services and social justice issues. I see environment as inextricably linked to the health and welfare of the community.

One of my key strengths is working collaboratively and in consultation with the community and organisational stakeholders. Whilst working for Trish Doyle MP I developed strong working relationships with environmental groups and stakeholders in the Blue Mountains. If elected I will work with Blue Mtns Conservation Society, the Colong Foundation and other stakeholders as well as residents’ groups drawing on their knowledge, expertise and advice. I believe a united position is needed to address a range of environmental issues and vulnerabilities as well as the protection of our natural assets.

Council currently has a number of big-picture issues on the agenda – Warragamba Dam, the Western Sydney Airport, Zombie development applications and protecting our LEP. I will commit to working on these matters as a priority
Sarah Redshaw  (The Greens)
I am interested in the idea of a sanctuary for injured wildlife but need to know more about what is involved and how council can contribute.
I’d like to see more promotion about the impact of cats and ability to give people information.
More shared use of roads – footpaths and cycleways, reduced speeds and chicanes.
We will be working together as Greens councillors to implement council’s commitment to the climate emergency declaration.
We will pursue the implementation of the Blue Mountains Greens climate action plan and promote the rights of nature and understanding of this in the community by for example, contributing to the community strategic plan.

Environment budget
Q.1 a)  Do you support increasing the Council’s natural environment budget to at least 5% of the Council’s overall budget in 21/22 and then ongoing?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesVery much warranted.
Preamble:  Council’s natural environment budget for 20/21 was 4% of Council’s overall budget (Blue Mountains Council Operational Plan 20-21 p69). Since 2018 the natural environment budget, as a percentage of Council’s overall budget, has remained at 4% and not increased. This is inadequate given the Blue Mountains is surrounded by World Heritage and the significant natural areas Council manage.

b)  Do you support reinstating transparent reporting of Council’s yearly natural environmental budget?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesTransparency is preferable
Preamble:  Prior to 2013, Council provided much more detailed public reporting on the planned expenditure of the natural environment budget. This has been discontinued and Council currently only provide an overall budget figure under the heading “Natural Environment” in the yearly Operational Plan. Without this detail, budget changes cannot be compared from one year to the next.

c)  Will you advocate for the introduction of a new budget item within the Natural Area Visitor Facilities for maintenance?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesAnother area that needs attention.
Preamble:  Maintenance of visitor facilities does not currently have a budget. This means that skilled Council staff from other areas are often deployed to do this work. A specific allocation for maintenance of walking tracks and lookouts, toilets etc would ensure that Council assets do not get run down and require a major overhaul.

Katoomba Airfield
Q.2 Will you actively support the Katoomba Airfield (located at Medlow Bath) being included in the Blue Mountains National Park and retained for emergency services?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesThis is definitely a priority to prevent further potential developments.
Preamble:  On 22 October, Crown Lands announced that it had refused the proposed lease to operate a commercial airfield, but will continue to allow emergency operations. To ensure that there is never a commercial development on the site it needs to be incorporated into the surrounding national park.


Dual naming
Q.3 Do you support the promotion of dual current and Aboriginal naming of Council managed iconic sites throughout the Blue Mountains (e.g. Minnehaha Falls and lookouts along the southern escarpment) in consultation with the Darug and Gundungurra communities?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesIn consultation with and lead by the Traditional Owners – Gundungurra and Darug Nations
Sarah RedshawGreensyesIt is important that we do much more of this.
Preamble:  Many Councils are adopting a proactive program of dual naming sites owned and managed by local councils, in recognition of local First Nations people eg Newcastle City and Hornsby Shire Councils.


Encroachment policy
Q.4 Do you support the development and resourcing of a Council Land Encroachment Policy to address degradation of bushland reserves caused by the use of this land by neighbouring private landholders?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesLand degradation requires attention wherever possible to prevent any more environmental damage.
Preamble:  The development of a Council Land Encroachment Policy has been included in past Council Operational Plans and has been raised by previous Councillors in Notice of Motions, but no policy has been finalised and adopted. Currently there are significant issues of residents degrading Council bushland reserves adjacent to their properties by using the land to park vehicles, stockpile materials, dispose of garden waste, or by mowing.


Climate change
Q.5 Do you support Council developing a policy of prohibiting gas appliances in all new residential developments in the Blue Mountains?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesHowever I would want to see Council undertake extensive community consultation on this policy.
Sarah RedshawGreensyesAlso support addition of a solar target.
Preamble:  Prioritising removing gas appliances from households in NSW is the quickest and most effective way to reduce gas usage and therefore climate change-inducing pollutants from the gas industry. It also relieves our homes of airborne pollutants from gas appliances which increase the risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Canterbury Bankstown Council has led the way by proposing a ban on gas connections in new developments, and making rooftop solar panels compulsory, as part of the Masterplans for Campsie and Bankstown Town Centres.


Planning and development
Q.6 Do you support Council’s current opposition to the proposed NSW Government’s state-wide ‘one size fits all’ planning reforms applying to the Blue Mountains? This includes opposing -
  • more development types being exempt from Council assessment and approval;
  • changes which will allow developers to contravene more development rules; and
  • allowing ‘big retail’ standalone developments or Penrith-style retail conglomerations outside established town centres.
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesI support Council’s current LEP, character-zones and opposition to one-size fits all rampant overdevelopment being pushed by the LNP State Government and the impact on water catchment, World Heritage status, etc.
Sarah RedshawGreensyesVery important to keep large developments out of the mountains and maintain lower density development.
Preamble:  The NSW Government is currently escalating reforms that will further centralise planning decisions and over-ride local planning controls. The Society believes these reforms will fast track inappropriate development in the Blue Mountains, exclude residents’ ability to have a say over how and where development will occur and will degrade the local environment and character of the Blue Mountains.

Q.7 Do you support Council’s current policy of low new housing targets for the Blue Mountains?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesI do support the targets as this is one of the reasons I have lived in the Blue Mountains for nearly 40 years, however, I also believe we need to look at ways to address rental shortages and social housing needs.
Sarah RedshawGreensyesHuman impact on the area has to be minimised.
Preamble:  The Council is required to negotiate 5 to 10-year housing targets with the state government on an ongoing basis. Council’s new housing targets are based on land capability/availability, environmental constraints on development, and the Blue Mountains’ designation as a low-density Metropolitan Rural Area.

Q.8 Will you support Council leading a strategy to increase affordable housing in the Blue Mountains, working with the not-for-profit sector and the NSW Government?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesI have spent many years working with people who are at risk of homelessness. Housing affordability has reached a crisis point in the Blue Mountains and tenants are experiencing a major housing crisis forcing many into homelessness, couch-surfing, etc. In spite of promises to deliver more social housing the NSW Government has failed. In the past I have worked with Community Housing Providers and other stakeholders and have formed good working relationships with Link-Wentworth. Any commitments to increasing affordable housing needs to be consistent with the Blue Mountains LEP.
Sarah RedshawGreensyesHousing needs to be available for a range of socio-economic positions
Preamble:  The Blue Mountains has a shortage of affordable rental properties. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has numerous expert reports which demonstrate that increasing housing supply does not necessarily lead to lower housing prices, or more properties available for affordable rents, in fact it can be the reverse. This is due to factors such as investor demand, the influence of negative gearing and other financial policies. The Society believes the provision of increased affordable housing in the Blue Mountains does not require an increase in the new housing target.

Q.9 Do you support Council’s continuing efforts to have the Blue Mountains Local Government Area excluded from the NSW Government’s Low Rise Housing Diversity Code?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesLow density is necessary to maintain the environment.
Preamble:  This Code, now in force in the mountains despite Council’s efforts, allows fast-track approval for medium-density housing which meets state-wide ‘one size fits all’ development standards. Council assessment and approval is bypassed and neighbours have no say in these types of development.

Q.10 Do you support Council’s ongoing efforts to protect the large garden and bushland lots of the Blue Mountains townships from subdivision and intensive development?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesA community focus and green villages with a character classification would help maintain the existing charm and precious bushland of the mountains.
Preamble:  The Blue Mountains towns are famous for their large lot residential areas featuring older character housing, ‘leafy green streets’ and display gardens as well as natural bushland. The NSW Department of Planning did not support Council’s proposal for the inclusion of the R6 Residential Character Conservation zone in LEP 2015, which would have protected these areas from inappropriate development. Council continues to negotiate with the Department of Planning for the protection of these areas.

Q.11 Do you support Council’s current strong opposition to the proposed ‘Wildlife Park’ (zoo) at Bodington Hill, Wentworth Falls, now classified as a “State Significant Development”?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesThis is an example of inappropriate development that would be damaging to the mountains.
Preamble:  Although the Council is not the approval authority for this proposed development, its opposition will be crucial to the outcome.

Q.12 Do you support retaining the Katoomba Golf Course as a publicly owned community recreation area?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesI support the Katoomba Golf Club remaining in public hands. I will not support the sale – ever!
Sarah RedshawGreensyesTo work appropriately with the Institute for Planetary Health.
Preamble:  (The Katoomba Masterplanning process, presently under way, will determine the future of the old Katoomba Golf Course. Local tourist operators have publicly stated their interest in the Golf Course as a site for a large-scale hotel/resort/conference centre or tourist ‘hub’.


Great Western Highway
Q.13 Will you publicly and strongly support Council’s position of opposing the Great Western Highway duplication?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryesI am committed to the policy articulated by the Mayors’ Minute and Blue Mountains City Council.
The issue of the highway duplication is a State Government matter however I believe community consultation has been inadequate and that a better investment would be in freight to rail which would also address many of the highway safety and congestion issues.
Given the State Government’s stated intention to proceed with the tunnel option I believe the tunnel must include the village of Medlow Bath in order to protect the heritage and amenity of this village.
I also oppose the introduction of 30 metre trucks on our highway and will advocate for a moratorium on their introduction by the NSW Government.
Sarah RedshawGreensyesWidening will lead to increase in larger truck movements across the mountains and this is not good for any of the villages.
Preamble:  The proposed duplicated Great Western Highway from Katoomba to Mount Victoria, including the proposal for tunnels, will

Western Sydney Airport (Nancy Bird Walton International Airport)
Q.14 Will you publicly and strongly support Council’s current advocacy for residents and the environment in regard to flight paths and the lack of a curfew in relation to the Western Sydney Airport?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesWe oppose the airport and certainly the 24/7 operation and the impact on Western Sydney as well as the effect of flight paths over the mountains.
Preamble:  Flight paths for the new airport have not yet been publicly exhibited. The number, the elevation, the frequency and paths of flights from the new airport, as well as the lack of a curfew, will significantly impact residents, the Blue Mountains National Park and local fauna.


Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area
Q.15 Will you publicly and strongly support Council’s current opposition to raising the Warragamba Dam wall?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesThe proposed dam wall raising is nonsense and I will continue to oppose it at every opportunity.
Preamble:  Raising the Warragamba Dam wall will damage Aboriginal cultural sites and heritage, the Blue Mountains National Park and world heritage values; and will destroy endangered flora and fauna.

Q.16 Will you support the protection of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area by opposing development on the escarpment?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesThere should be no private occupation of the escarpments.
Preamble:  Over 70% of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area is included in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Urban areas adjacent to the World Heritage area, and major new developments on/near the escarpment, have a significant impact on world heritage values. Although the Council is not the approval authority for major developments its opposition will be crucial to any outcomes.


Visitation impacts
Q.17 Will you support Council’s efforts to further raise revenue from visitors and tourists, such as parking fees in tourism areas, to minimise tourist and visitor impacts on council managed natural areas and enable council managed tourism infrastructure to be maintained and improved?
Candidate Party yes/no Response
Kevin SchreiberLiberal
Suzie Van OpdorpLaboryes
Sarah RedshawGreensyesCouncil faces considerable expense with tourist visitations and requires some additional source of revenue to contribute to this.
Preamble:  The Blue Mountains experienced a massive increase in tourism and visitation prior to the pandemic which is anticipated to continue to grow post pandemic. Before the pandemic Council predicted that visitation in 2036 would be 33% above 2018 levels (Local Planning Statement 2020 p105). These visitors use council owned and managed infrastructure such as walking tracks, toilets, lookouts and camp sites which currently are inadequate in light of increases in visitation. Council owned natural areas are also impacted from visitors (eg litter, erosion of walking tracks) and need to be proactively managed. Currently these costs are largely borne by local residents through council rates.



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We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land
– the Darug and Gundungurra people –
and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
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