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Removing barriers between Council and the public

One of the things I expressed my commitment to when I was seeking election to Council, is to improve the perception that Councillors are accountable to the public, interact easily with the public, and welcome public participation at Council meetings.

Immediately after the election, my worthy colleagues and I began a conversation about measures to implement this desire. It was commonly agreed that removing the boundary cordon between the seated Councillors and the public gallery would be a symbolic yet significant gesture, as would dispensing with the security guard, since in the recollection of our Councillors who had been on Council for 17 years, not a single incident requiring security action had ever occurred.

At the council meeting on Tuesday 11th October, a Mayoral minute to this effect was put forward, with myself as a co-sponsor.
Immediately as the proposal passed in the Chamber, I was one of the Councillors reported as rising to physically remove the barrier. 

I am confident that in this Council term, visitors to our public gallery at Council meetings will interact positively with us, and that mutual respect will prevail.


Elected to Hawkesbury River County Council

At the Council meeting held on October 11, 2016 a preferential ballot was held to elect the Council's delegates to the Hawkesbury River County Council. I am pleased to say I was elected as one of Council's two delegates for the four year term.

The County Council operates effectively as a Council body in its own right, and its elected representatives are sent from the Councils in Hawkesbury, Blacktown, Penrith, and the Hills.

The Council's remit is largely concerned with weed management in the waterways of the Hawkesbury Nepean river and its tributaries. I am proud to be one of our community's representatives to this body.


Fitzgerald Aged Care branding launch

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The "Photo-Op". Is there anything more clichéd and typical of the politician's photo album?

You get invited to the opening or commemoration of something in which you can take next to no credit, and you pose, mugging for the camera in the hope that your Mum (or better still, a voter) sees you in the paper/ social media afterwards. I suppose I should resign myself to this early. Sometimes, people are right to be cynical.

But perhaps there's something else going on here. Let's explore.

I attended my first outside function as a Councillor this week when I attended the launch of the revamped branding of the Fitzgerald Aged Care facility. I learned about their plans for ongoing improvements at their premises in Rum Corp Lane in Windsor. Despite having driven past the place all my life, I had never been there, tucked in there as it is behind the Sebel. I was unaware, for example, of the amazingly long history of the organisation out of which Fitzgerald had grown, dating back to the formation of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society at a public meeting in 1818. This society had as its sole object "the support and relief by voluntary contributions of all real objects of charity in the Hawkesbury district" and "for the relief of such poor persons belonging to the district as through age, accident or infirmity (who) are unable to support themselves". It is pleasing to think that a body formed for that purpose two centuries ago is still discharging its duty!

If I had not been invited to that launch, I would not have been spurred to lose an evening diving into Trove and beginning a study of the storied history of the Society from which the present organisation descended. Fascinating.

As I attended the launch, I also heard from the residents, board members and staff of how the culture of Fitzgerald was distinctive for the commitment and kindness shown to its residents, and the friendliness and professionalism shown by the staff. I was particularly pleased to make the re-acquaintance of the Board President Dr Jules Whitty, whom I knew in his days as a surgeon, as he reminded me that as an independent facility, the challenge to remain modern and well resourced  was constant. My new colleague on Council, Clr. Sarah Richards has also been a member of the board on and off for some years and her pride in the work of Fitzgerald was plain.

So there's a better reason why a newbie politician like me should go to photo ops like these. It's not about me. It's about giving some recognition to people and organisations who plug away doing worthy things with less thanks than they deserve. Did you know about this hidden gem in our local community? I didn't, and now I have a better appreciation for it, and for the staff and board who work so tirelessly for its betterment. Worth standing there for a photo.

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Where I'm coming from

This is my first post, and I wondered how I might begin. A bout of spring cleaning supplied my answer.

As I was digging around in my shed, by happy coincidence I found a flier that I used when I first ran for Council in 1995. I was 22.

1995-zamprogno-campaign-flier

Good god, in 1995, I had a pony tail. Stop it. Stop laughing.

I cringe a little when I look back and think of how earnest and callow I was back then, but I also feel some pride that the things that mattered to me, and upon which I was prepared to advance myself for public office, have not changed all that much in the intervening decades.

And here's something I forgot existed: Part of the web page I created for my next run in 1999:

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Cringe. I am. A lot of high-minded, rather snarky rhetoric not particularly backed by life experience. But again, some premonition of things that are still important to me now:  a concern for preserving the semi-rural amenity of our district, a seeking of balance between the contending forces  of progress and conservation in our district, and a strong belief in making our elected leaders accountable. Missing, perhaps, was an appreciation of the benefits of a growing, thriving economy, the advantages of limited development accompanied by proper planning, or a knowledge of how local realpolitik works.

This is a snapshot of where I come from.

Here's another: I was deeply influenced during my childhood by growing up in part at my grandparent's property at Glenhaven, nearby in the Hills District. My personal heritage spans the Hills and the Hawkesbury in equal measure. Seeing Glenhaven built out begninng in the 1980s, and seeing it lose its semi-rural aspect in the name of progress broke my heart. I have written about my childhood experiences growing up there in several articles. Here's one, A Bouquet for Jacarandas, and another, Abandoning the Cubby. Those links are to my personal blog, where I have occasionally made political commentary, but now all my political posts will be here. Yes, I have eclectic tastes.

The two greatest influences upon me, politically, were my grandfather Harry Holland, and former Hawkesbury Mayor, Doctor and friend, Rex Stubbs. Both were deeply invested in their communities and exemplified the kind of common sense needed in public life. Both have passed from us, sadly, and I miss them both terribly. But my hope is to deliberate and act in such a way as would have made them proud. I remembered my late grandfather in this article, written 20 years after he died, and about Dr Rex Stubbs in this piece I wrote when he died in 2010.

If, in public life, I ever show an inclination to be untrue to the convictions I gained in my youth, or from those who mentored me, please remind me.

-Nathan Zamprogno