Using council-owned buildings to combat the housing crisis, mending local roads and reducing carbon emissions are just some of the priorities held by the Shoalhaven mayoral candidates ahead of the race for the top spot.
The six mayoral candidates shared their visions for the Shoalhaven in the lead up to the December 4 local government elections.
It's been a tough two years for the region which faced the 2019-2020 bushfires, floods and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many candidates focusing on rebuilding the region economically and environmentally from the aftermath of these events.
CBD revitalisation and the economy
Incumbent Greens Mayor Amanda Findley said she would continue to attract grants for local businesses and for revitalisation of infrastructure, and would seek out housing options in the Nowra CBD that would combat the rental crisis and benefit the economy.
"I have already had a major achievement with a record $60mill in grants coming into the city," she said.
"Ensuring that this massive amount of capital gets spent across our city will be a tremendous economic stimulus to our area.
"I would also like to see the development controls for the Nowra CBD amended to allow for more housing, which would in turn help stimulate the return of the retail economy."
Creating local jobs and boosting the local economy is high on the priority list for Deputy Mayor Greg Watson and Independent councillor Patricia White.
Cr White said rebuilding the Shoalhaven's economy should be "number one", with her other focus on completing infrastructure projects and encouraging visitors to the area.
"We're coming out of a pandemic, that has really been quite traumatic for businesses...we need to get them back on their feet," she said.
Mayoral candidate Nina Digiglio, who is not running as councillor due to making an error in nomination forms, said if elected she would advocate to the government for grants that support the revitalisation of retail.
She said she would also focus on working to ensure people with disabilities are included in employment spaces and would work to fund start up models for Aboriginal business owners.
As for former Shoalhaven mayor, Paul Green, who held the position from 2008 to 2012, he said he would aim to achieve the creation of another regional shopping centre and create more live music venues.
With pristine environments across the Shoalhaven, there have been a number of development applications that have cause outcry in the community.
However, some candidates believe developments are necessary as a means to combat the housing crisis which will in turn have economic benefits for small villages.
Cr Watson said more land should be released for development to "increase completion in the property market" and that the interests of the community and developers must be balanced.
"Sometimes we have to make decision for the overall good of the community like increasing the supply of land even though a group may not want it," he said.
"Without releasing land all we do on the longer term is to create what we have now, unaffordable housing."
However, in response to the controversial development application proposed for the Stockland Nowra shopping centre, Cr Watson said he "would have got straight in the car to Canberra to appeal to the minister responsible to stop the move".
Nearby residents living in Morton Parade expressed concerns over the now withdrawn application that it would have caused increased traffic and access problems to the street.
Cr Watson said the development wasn't in the interests of those using the service or for businesses near the current Centrelink office in the Nowra CBD.
Cr White, who has been on council for nine years, expressed her interest in handling development applications and said she checks each one thoroughly to make fully-informed decisions.
"I read every submission on DA tracking...I make sure I'm fully informed on what the issues are the community are raising on those applications," she said.
"If I can listen to the residents, and they can tell me what would make it better, we can put those conditions in to make it better for their lifestyle.
"I don't have a problem with refusing a DA if I don't think it's in the best interest of the Shoalhaven."
Cr White said the controversial West Culburra development had halved in size after council negotiated with the community and said it was a "good outcome".
Cr Findley said she would work to build stronger relationships with developers in order to reach good outcomes for the community.
"Building better relationships with the development industry over the coming years will be fundamental to getting good development outcomes and not ones that leave poor legacies for future generations to deal with," she said.
Climate policy and reducing emissions
Cr Findley and mayoral candidate Nina Digiglio both outlined reducing carbon emissions and creating a cleaner environment as a priority if elected.
Cr Findley said she would push for more solar farms in the Shoalhaven and would work to implement a zero net emissions target for 2030.
"More solar farms across the region, including at a North Nowra site, should give us all access to cheap green energy doing our bit for the planet," she said.
Cr Digiglio said she would fund more electric vehicle charging stations and push for solar panels on all council-owned buildings to drive emissions down.
Independent councillor Mark Kitchener did not respond to the South Coast Register's requests for comment.
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