• Tony Bosworth

No more talk about climate change and same sex marriage says Mayor

Hawkesbury’s new Mayor Patrick Conolly believes councillors have spent far too long talking about climate change and same-sex marriage and says residents want the council to get back to local issues.

Councillor Patrick Conolly was elected to the top job last week.

We wanted to find out who Councillor Conolly is, and see what Mayor Conolly’s priorities will be in the next year. This mayoral period is shorter than usual – only a year – due to local council elections being pushed out 12 months because of the Covid pandemic.

The 30-year-old Liberal Party member is the son of Kevin Conolly who is now state MP for Riverstone. Conolly senior was previously a Hawkesbury councillor.

Patrick was elected to Hawkesbury City Council in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. He went to school locally at Chisholm Catholic Primary and then Bede Polding college. He graduated from UWS with a Bachelor of Business and Commerce and went on to complete a Masters of Professional Accounting at UNE. Mayor Conolly is married to Jess and the couple have four children.

The new mayor is keen to get back to what he believes are core local council priorities.

“During this term of council, much of our time has been spent discussing climate change, same sex marriage, and other state, federal and social issues. Whilst these are all important and interesting topics, it is not the work we were elected to do, and not what the community expects of us.”

“My priorities will be to focus on our local government responsibilities. I would like the next 12 months to be spent working on the new LEP [Local Environmental Plan] so that our plans reflect what our community actually want to see in relation to development and infrastructure.

“The delivery of the $15m of Liveability funding we have received from the State and Federal Governments is a huge opportunity to make a long term difference to Windsor, Richmond and South Windsor.

“Our residents have also suffered a huge rate increase, so one of my key priorities will be to review our financial management and make sure we are in the best financial position.”

Mr Conolly certainly understands the financial world thanks to his career as a public accountant for the last seven years. He joined Quantum Advisory in Windsor last year where he works with small and medium business clients in the Hawkesbury and beyond.

The mayor believes there are a number of big challenges and opportunities facing the Hawkesbury.

“They include getting our planning controls right so that we encourage development that promotes rather than detracts from our natural and built assets and lets people plan with certainty.

“There’s also the selection of routes for, and construction of, the third Hawkesbury River and Grose River crossings which represent a huge opportunity to cut travel times for our residents.”

We also asked the Mayor if he thought party politics had a place in local government.

“I chose to stand for Council as a Liberal candidate, so that the community knew where I stood and the values with which I would approach my role. I believe that being upfront with the community about who you are and what you believe in are vital for democracy.

Mayor Conolly with fellow Liberal councillors Sarah Richards and Nathan Zamprogno

“We have had a group of independent and Green councillors who have worked closely together and effectively been a block on council, more united than most political party councillors. The people who voted for these independents may not have done so if they had also been upfront about their values and political ideologies like the party candidates were.”

In the last mayoral term the council supported action to keep old Windsor Bridge intact. Mayor Conolly believes that subject is now closed.

Windsor Bridge no longer an issue for council, says Mayor Connolly. Pic by Paul Caleo

“The removal of the bridge has already begun, so I don’t see this as a current issue.”

We also asked if the Mayor harboured any desires to follow his father into state or federal politics.

“I am focused on doing the best job I can as the Mayor for the remainder of this term of council. Whilst I don't have any plans to enter state or federal politics, I am passionate about our area and feel greatly privileged to represent our community.”

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