• Tony Bosworth

People Not Parties announce strong independent team for Hawkesbury Council election

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

People Not Parties unveil their seven-member team for the local council elections, with two current Hawkesbury councillors, and the other five all well known across the community.

Council elections are on December 4 - with all 12 seats up for grabs. We'll be showcasing all the candidates and all the groups. We begin with People Not Parties

The PNP team is - says lead candidate and current Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett - “rich in skills, diversity and experience” and she said they are set to “deliver an independent voice on behalf of the Hawkesbury community”.

“Local government is very different from State or Federal government which operate parliamentary systems. Party dominance in our Council limits the broadest possible scope of representation through diverse perspectives,” she said.

Hawkesbury council is broadly split down the middle at the moment, with Labor and Liberal councillors voting together along the same lines on numerous occasions this past year, with the Greens and independents often being the voice of opposition.

Cllr Lyons-Buckett said the PNP group represented strong local voices, and presented a group of individuals, “deeply committed to independent representation in local government, with a clear vision for the Hawkesbury of the future”.

The other team members are David Gearin, current councillor Emma-Jane Garrow, Peter Ryan, Stacy O’Toole, Richie Benson and Tara Vigouroux.

Team PNP - from top left - Richie Benson, Stacy O'Toole, David Gearin, Mary Lyons-Buckett, Emma-Jane Garrow, Peter Ryan and Tara Vigouroux

“They are all representative of multiple sections of the Hawkesbury, its organisations, localities and perspectives,” said Cllr Lyons-Buckett.

“Our group urges voters to carefully consider who they are voting for, and who will best represent their interests,” said Cllr Lyons-Buckett.

The Deputy Mayor is well known in the community for her passionate care for all who live here, for the heritage of the area, her focus on appropriate development, and she is also someone who’s known for simply getting things done.

She was elected to Council in 2012 and says she has enjoyed the past nine years working with, and for, the Hawkesbury community.

Councillor Lyons-Buckett was Mayor between 2016-18 and Deputy Mayor from 2018 to 2021, and has been involved in raising the profile of the Hawkesbury within the wider region, being involved in the negotiations and signing of the Western Sydney City Deal, for example, the 100 Resilient Cities Program and the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership.

She believes residents and ratepayers are best served by leadership which delivers unity over divisiveness, with the skills and interests of all 12 Councillors being respected and utilised.

The Deputy Mayor has overseen changes introduced in Council to increase community participation and transparency, as well as bringing forward many new initiatives to the Hawkesbury area.

She is a strong advocate of increasing our resilience, deservedly being proud of her role as Chair of the former Floodplain Management Advisory and Waste Advisory Committees, and her work as Chair of the StreetConnect Working Group.

While acknowledging the current Council term got off to a good start, Cllr Lyons-Buckett says she believes there is still much work to be done, particularly around strategic planning for the future, and ensuring our area is given the infrastructure and services the community deserves.

David Gearin is a South Windsor resident who has spent years involved in the Council’s Access and Inclusion Committee, serving as Deputy Chair.

As well as helping at his childrens’ schools and being a member of the Lowlands Soccer Club’s Management Committee, Mr Gearin has an in-depth understanding of the issues around access and inclusion for all residents.

With qualifications and a business background as an arborist, he also has a wealth of knowledge about the local area and its environment.

Mr Gearin says he embraces the strong community spirit and generosity within the Hawkesbury, believing community needs can be best met by genuine independent representation on Council.

He’s also focussed on upgrades of local sporting facilities to keep pace with demand, and says he wants to retain “the valuable characteristics of the Hawkesbury we love”.

Cllr Emma-Jane Garrow has just completed her first term on Hawkesbury Council and has made an impact on a broad range of issues, particularly around support for local business, tourism and Council’s initial Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The councillor is well known and liked in the community and has lived all her life on the floodplain so knows only too well the flood impacts on residents, and the need for us to be as resilient as possible.

Cllr Garrow has also chaired both the Tourism Committee and the RAP Working Group on Council and she works for the local Pink Finss charity organisation, supporting women and families through cancer.

Together with her husband, Cllr Garrow runs a small business in the construction sector which she says gives her a good insight into the local economy and its needs. She has also continued her commitment to work for the beautification of Windsor through being involved in the Town Centres Revitalisation program.

Peter Ryan is another well-known face around the Hawkesbury. He’s lived here all his life, and is a strong community advocate as President of the Pitt Town Progress Association, and former President of the Pitt Town Soccer Club.

A former Police Officer, Mr Ryan has been heavily involved in honouring our servicemen and women - ranging from his Kokoda Trail trek, to establishing the Pitt Town War Memorial and ANZAC Day event, of which he chairs the committee.

Leading the Progress Association for the past six years, Mr Ryan has doggedly pursued outstanding infrastructure projects promised through the Pitt Town Development, and is working to get new and improved facilities and traffic solutions for Pitt Town.

Mr Ryan says he wants to see the Council proactive rather than reactive on issues, something he believes is best served by strong independent voices on Council.

Stacy O’Toole has a long history of volunteering in the Hawkesbury, especially in her role as Secretary of Hawkesbury Basketball Association for the past 10 years.

She has been involved with advocating and negotiating for improvements at the indoor stadium, and more recently engaging with the PCYC about the new upgraded facilities.

Ms O’Toole is the recipient of the ‘I AM A GIRL’ leadership scholarship from Basketball NSW. Having restored a circa 1825 historic settler’s cottage in Pitt Town, she says she is passionate about heritage, and the community of Pitt Town.

She says she sees many opportunities in the Hawkesbury for growth in sports tourism, agri-tourism, and increased opportunities associated with our majestic river.

Ms O’Toole said she believes strong independent community members are well equipped to represent the needs and future of the Hawkesbury.

Richie Benson is Hawkesbury born and bred, and as the youngest group member, brings the perspective of youth and its specific needs.

Richie is passionate about the environment and natural resources management, and has been given several awards for his contributions over the past few years.

He has organised the much-loved KoalaFest, founded the Cumberland Reach Landcare group, and was responsible for reuniting many people with their lost possessions through his hugely successful Facebook page, Hawkesbury Floods Lost and Found.

Richie was awarded the NSW Young Landcare Leader 2019 award, and the Local Hero Award in 2020 at Council’s Australia Day awards ceremony. Richie says he is passionate about the river and bushland identity the Hawkesbury carries, and recognises the huge potential for further tourism across our town centres and rural areas.

Tara Vigoroux is a Clarendon resident who is very involved in Hawkesbury’s racing industry, and an avid supporter of creative and performing arts.

A Hawkesbury resident since she was 15, Ms Vigoroux says she has also been lucky to raise her two daughters here where they attended school and took part in a vast range of sporting activities.

After her eldest daughter got involved in the Sister City Program, Ms Vigoroux joined the committee as she believed this offered a great opportunity for local youth. Tara and her husband have run their business locally for over 25 years.

She says she is passionate about the large Hawkesbury equine community and encouragement of sustainable living and development.

Cllr Lyons-Buckett says, “we are determined to move forward positively, and ensure all our community is heard, and represented.

“With a wealth of untapped potential and many opportunities to maximise, the Hawkesbury has a unique locality on the city’s fringe, the challenge ahead for Hawkesbury is implementing a balance between preservation and growth,” said the Deputy Mayor.

“Our key focus will be on combining advocacy, investigations and delivery around current local government services and obligations. Addressing cost-shifting from other levels of government, ensuring equitable distribution and access to services and facilities, promoting sustainable and appropriate development, and committing to translating the visions of our community into reality, will be our key focus,” she said.

“We offer grassroots representation with connections across the Hawkesbury, aware of both the challenges and opportunities we all face."

"We are open to hearing diverse perspectives and working to develop solutions. We offer total commitment to our community, free of any external influences and divisive political control, raising issues on behalf of all of you.”

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