Roseville Station Lifts

At the last election, many residents asked for lifts at Roseville Station and I said that while it was a State Government matter, I would advocate on their behalf for both lifts AND increased frequency of train services at Roseville and Killara.

The Roseville Station lifts opened earlier this month and our residents enjoy the improved level of accessibility for the elderly, for those with prams, for those lugging suitcases, etc. Other upgrades include a safer train platform, better toilets, and a much more attractive garden setting. Train services were also increased significantly pre-covid, we thank the State Government for these upgrades, and Killara Station is next on the list.

Designing a Mountain Bike Track in Lindfield

With COVID Lockdowns and the Tokyo Olympics, kids have shown renewed interest in mountain biking and building their own ramps, berms, jumps and pump tracks. Unfortunately the activity is often unauthorised and sometimes conducted in environmentally sensitive or dangerous areas so council has historically gone in and put things to a halt, which is very discouraging for the kids involved.

A more recent trend with Councils across Sydney is that we are now actively engaging with the mountain biking community to build authorised tracks in an environmentally sensitive and safe manner. Earlier in the year our Council built a fantastic track at the back of Golden Jubilee Field in collaboration with the biking community, and yesterday our Council held a workshop with ~25 kids and their parents to explore what they would like to see happen at Little Soldiers Memorial Park Lindfield.

Mitch and I attended the event and were encouraged to see Council working consultatively with the biking community to work towards a design. Kids were given the opportunity to design their own tracks and present their ideas to the wider group. We also spoke about what it means for the mountain biking to be good neighbours to other users in the area (e.g. tennis, netball, cricket and bushwalkers), incorporating safety features in design, which areas were ecologically sensitive, and how to leave a positive legacy for future generations.

I spoke with organisers after the event to also confirm that discussions were actively being held with other user groups as part of the consultation process.

We would like to thank both the Council staff and community members from the Tryon Trail Crew for organising this workshop.

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Policy

Did you know that our neighbouring councils all have public EV charging infrastructure plans in place? Willoughby partnered with ChargeFox and introduced theirs in 2015. Ryde partnered with Exploren and introduced infrastructure this year. Hornsby and Northern Beaches have also recently introduced plans.

But at Ku-ring-gai we have yet to adopt a plan, and that makes it difficult to encourage uptake for those who don’t have the luxury of charging at a home garage. Ku-ring-gai did recently change its Development Control Plans to require future apartments to provide charging conduits, but that doesn’t do anything to address the needs of existing apartment dwellers.

The only publicly accessible charger in Ku-ring-gai is in St Ives Shopping Centre so in September I went to check it out. It was pretty cool, the first hour of charge was free and it charged the car six times faster than charging at home when plugged into a regular wall socket. But we need much more of these to promote a serious level of uptake, not just at retail locations but also on public land.

If elected we will start the process of developing an Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Plan. We will also seek to put the charging infrastructure to tender, exploring whether or not any of the current suppliers are able to provide infrastructure at a price that is acceptable to us as ratepayers.

Maintenance of Sporting Facilities

I recently met with Ed Ferguson from Northern Suburbs Football Association to discuss the recreational needs of our residents as well as the role that Council plays in providing for these needs.

A challenge faced by all sporting codes is that playing surfaces wear out from regular use and extreme weather, and they do not last forever. In recent months council has invested in returfing or upgrading Wellington Oval, Tryon Oval, and Acron Oval for Football, Cricket and AFL. Council has also upgraded the Roseville Park Pavilion used mainly for Tennis, and the Roseville Park Oval will be returfed and upgraded in early 2022.

We also discussed Primula Oval in West Lindfield, and the prospects of upgrading to a hybrid surface which is 95% natural grass reinforced by a 5% artificial frame. Hybrid technologies can substantially increase the durability and playtime of pitch, however are expensive and council needs to assess the cost/benefit as well as the funding.

Council spends ~$4.3m on sporting facility improvements each year, with staff typically proposing a funding allocation that evenly spreads the benefits across the entire LGA and multiple sporting codes. Sometimes there is scope for councillors to prioritise one initiative over another, and staff recommend funding adjustments for the following year. However $4.3m doesn’t go very far so it’s difficult to promise everything straight away, and there is benefit in seeking State/Federal Government support as well as additional fundraising.

During this election season I also find it bizarre that some incumbent candidates are claiming that they delivered this and that project when most of it comes from standard operational staff recommendations for which councillors give final approval. I mean yes, we as councillors did approve the final plans so in a sense can claim credit, but unless we played a personal role in steering a particular outcome I’d feel uncomfortable leading residents to believe that we were responsible for it. Unfortunately most residents will not have the opportunity to do their research so will take these claims at face value.

Life after Bowling for Bowling Green Sites

I recently asked some friends and councillors in Willoughby about what they did with their bowling greens. Is selling off such land something that all councils do, or is Ku-ring-gai more of an exception

Artarmon Bowling was acquired by Willoughby Council in 2016 with a condition of purchase that it remains a community facility. There is a Parklands district including community garden, open space, outdoor exercise area, and children’s playground. The clubhouse itself is work in progress, and is set to become community rooms and family BBQ.

Northbridge Bowling similarly is now a cafe site (though currently looking for a tenant) with community hall, garden, and open space.

By way of contrast, Roseville Chase Bowling was acquired by Ku-ring-gai in 1955 and Gordon Bowling was acquired by Ku-ring-gai in 1953. In the Declaration of Trust for each bowling site, it says that each site “shall and henceforth be held by Council as a public reserve“. But right now the staff recommendation is to prepare to sell off both sites for development.

Neither site has been sold off yet and it remains as a decision of future councillors. But an important question to ask is that if our neighbours at Willoughby are doing just fine with retaining their bowling greens as community land, then why is Ku-ring-gai considering sale to property developers? Can’t Ku-ring-gai balance its books some other way? I have internally sought for a review of operational costs this term, but there has been limited appetite to look for different ways of doing things. There is also the question of whether Ku-ring-gai should be selling off land that under a Deed of Trust has been set aside as a public reserve.

Life as a First Term Councillor

This month I shared about Life as a First Term Councillor in the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post. Text below.

I’m thankful to the residents of Roseville and Lindfield for electing me in 2017 and I encourage newcomers to run for council.

While those who get elected will hit the ground running, they will rarely possess all the skills required to fulfill their duties, skills such as finance, law, planning, infrastructure, environment, waste services, and heritage. In early years, great reliance is placed on council officers who have more experience, and sometimes mistakes are made.

Fortunately, the peak body (Local Government NSW) offers optional training and networking events to share best practice with other councillors and general managers. Not many councillors take on these opportunities for professional development, however they have helped me become more effective in listening to the community, challenging project assumptions, and delivering for ratepayers.

Like any new starter it took time to familiarise with the council’s systems, processes and organisational culture. Ku-ring-gai residents should be proud of our road maintenance, financial reporting, and waste collection. However, I’ve also come to realise that other services can be better, and I hope that next year we will have councillors who take their civic duties seriously and seek to change the status quo.

I encourage all residents to think carefully before they vote. You want new blood to bring in fresh ideas. You also want to retain capable experienced councillors for stability as it takes a few years to skill up and contribute meaningfully. But beware of those with long tenures; long tenures may affect a person’s capacity to exercise independent judgement.

For more information visit

Lindfield Deserves a Better Library

Lindfield has a tiny 300sqm library. Now 300sqm is better than nothing at all but the reality is that many residents don’t even know that it exists and for those that do, many prefer to go to Chatswood Library or Gordon Library to get a range of books, find some space away from a crowded home to study, or hang out.

I was visiting another part of Sydney six months ago and absolutely loved their library. So spacious, modern, inviting and it even came with a good-sized theatre to the side. I told their mayor (Khal Asfour, Canterbury Bankstown) that I was jealous, and that I hoped that one day we can do something just as good in Lindfield.

What prompted their library project was a fire that had unfortunately destroyed the old building. Hopefully we don’t need anything that dramatic to get the Lindfield Village Hub’s 2400sqm library + community centre going, and there have been some signs that we can make meaningful progress in coming months.

Lessons from an Electric Vehicle Early Adopter

With the NSW Government EV incentives we thought we’d give it a go. There have been pain points for early adoption, but our kids love the car. Five things that we’ve learnt so far.

The car is amazing – The base model Tesla is quiet with responsive acceleration and zero tailpipe emissions.

Charging the car at home can be slow – if you charge from a regular power point it charges 2-3% per hour and a full charge over 30 hours.

Faster charging in Australian homes might not always be possible – Most Australian homes have a single phase power connection and a faster charger may take up to half the capacity, leaving little room for other appliances like air con, cooktop, fridge, computer, etc. Overloading the connection may cause the circuit breaker to trip or blow a switch (permanently), depending on the configuration. We installed a 32amp industrial outlet at home to enable faster charging.

It’s hard for apartment dwellers – Body corp may not agree to running extension cables or sharing common power. Many councils now require new apartments to provide EV-related electrical conduits in their carpark design, but it doesn’t help those in pre-existing apartments.

‘Range Anxiety’ is real – Cars are less efficient at high speed. Our vehicle can theoretically travel 480km on a single charge at 90km/h but the range drops to 380km at 110km/h. Certain regional trips will be difficult before widescale charging infrastructure rollout.

Comments re: Candidate Independence

I am writing on this topic as there have been unhelpful and inaccurate rumours in other parts of social media, comments which I am concerned may have the effect of misinforming residents.

In this election there are several candidates who are members of the Liberal Party who are running as Independents. What does this mean? Can you possibly be Independent and a member of the Liberal Party at the same time?

Well yes, you can. The NSW Electoral Commission’s own handbook for candidates defines Independents as “? ????????? ?? ??????? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ???????? ?? ? ?????????? ????????? ?????.”

In Ku-ring-gai, Willoughby, and many other LGA’s across NSW the Liberal Party chooses not to endorse (i.e. get behind or support) candidates and these party members are left on their own to run on their own platform, own convictions, own beliefs and policies, and with their own money.

In my particular case I fund my own campaign, we come up with our own policies and values, and we recruit our own volunteers. The election campaign is about our team and our policies, not about some political party that doesn’t endorse or provide support. Nobody tells us how to vote.

Political party membership is available for all to see on the Electoral Commission website. No candidates are ‘hiding’ it, and personally I am just waiting til next week to show the link to the Electoral Commission website because there’s an upgrade on the 22nd that will make it much more informative for users, and I like to do things once really well, not twice ineffectively.

But ultimately when it comes to policy alignment, values, etc. we all make our own decisions and have complete freedom to act how we want.

Therefore I believe the term Independent is entirely appropriate.

And I have certainly enjoyed the Independence in the last four years. Just to give some examples.

1) Though the current council has six out of ten councillors as Liberal Party members, they are often in disagreement. 3 vs 3. 4 vs 2. 5 vs. 1. When it’s 5 vs. 1 I’m often the independent lone wolf.

2) In July 2019 Council Staff proposed that the Lindfield Village Hub should be 14 storeys tall, to which I disagreed because I believed that it would set a dangerous precedent in Lindfield. I received pressure from other councillors including the former mayor to support 14 storeys, and if I had caved into her pressure we would be seeing 14 storeys in Lindfield right now. But I was happy to go against the Liberal then-mayor as I am an Independent and can vote however I want.

3) In May 2021 I proposed that council investigate the heritage value of the Roseville Chase and Gordon Bowling Green sites (and it was defeated). This didn’t have the support of other Liberal Party councillors but I wasn’t bothered as I am an Independent and so are they.

4) In the upcoming Roseville Ward elections, three of the four groups have Liberal Party members as lead candidates, but in our group’s view (and therefore in our preferencing), the most appropriate second group is non-party aligned. We do our preferences based on our own values, alignment and competency, not based on party membership. We are independents.

5) To me, party membership is actually quite meaningless because there is such a diverse range of people within the party. I know Liberal Party members who are full-on Trump. I also know Liberal Party members who effectively behave like they are in the Greens. I’m personally a bit of a strange mix of everything, I believe that the Government should take more proactive action to decelerate the effects of climate change and that we need to show more compassion to those in need (especially refugees), but I also have particular convictions based on my religious beliefs.

At every election, there will be those who go around saying this person and that person isn’t an ‘Independent’ because of party membership. But I strongly disagree with them because of all the reasons above (including the Electoral Commission’s definition). Furthermore it is genuinely frustrating that they apply this criticism to a select few candidates rather than all candidates with party membership. The constant cherry-picking of information, and deliberate and selective framing of information to cast candidates in poor light, unfortunately has had the effect of misinforming some residents, and I have had to correct misunderstandings on several occasions. But for every one person who is misinformed and who raises their concerns with me, I’m sure there are several who are misinformed and remain that way. This behaviour does not align with my values and I cannot endorse it.

In other news, Ku-ring-gai Living recently reached out to ALL candidates and asked them to fill a survey, including disclosure of party membership. Some candidates chose to respond, and their answers are found in the link below.

Introducing Our Team

It’s a pleasure to announce our team for the 4 December Ku-ring-gai Council Roseville Ward election. We are a diverse group of three well qualified candidates and each of us are long-term residents who genuinely care about the impact that councillors have on our community and way of life. We will be presenting to you our policies in the coming weeks and are ready to serve if elected.

Candidate #1 – Deputy Mayor Sam Ngai, first term councillor, senior corporate roles with a focus on process improvement. Local resident since 1987, now residing in East Lindfield with wife and two young children.

Candidate #2 – Amanda Blackman, local business owner and solicitor, Lindfield resident since 1994, actively involved in the community, and mother of two adult children.

Candidate #3 – Mitchell Frater-Baird, recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award in 2020 and passionate about developing community and sporting programmes.

Our campaign is self-funded so that we can stay true to our own values. Having said that if you read our policies and would like to support the cause by helping out in the coming weeks, then please reach out.

Lindfield Station Footpaths

One of our council’s strengths is responsiveness to requests that affect residents near our train stations.

Last week I received feedback that on Lindfield Avenue South of the train station there was significant overgrowth making it difficult for pedestrians to use the footpath. Sometimes it was so bad that they would have to do the limbo, and as we know the nature strip on the side isn’t too walker friendly either.

I passed the feedback onto council staff and within a day they were out there chopping off the overgrowth, making life much better for our residents.

The nature strip is another story… it’s well eroded at parts and it is going to be addressed as part of the Lindfield Town Centre Public Domain Plan that I expect will be approved by council early next year. Under that plan, a much nicer footpath will go where the nature strip currently is, so that residents can get straight onto a level footpath the moment they step out of the car.

Pedestrian Safety in Killara

Right now there are no pedestrian crossings across Lindfield and Werona Avenue between Lindfield and Killara Station, and this makes it difficult for less able-bodied people or parents pushing prams to get across the road. Fortunately our Federal Government under the safety-related Black Spot program has funded the conversion of these lights at Werona x Stanhope to support pedestrian crossing, making life much safer for our Lindfield and Killara residents. The pedestrian lights should be coming within the next seven months.

Remembrance Day

This morning at 11am we will pause to reflect on the sacrifices that our war veterans and other support teams have made to protect the freedoms of future generations.

There is a memorial service at the Roseville Club which will be attended by members of the community. Due to COVID restrictions and rain, the numbers will be limited but you can watch the livestream in the link below.

Lindfield Pedestrian Bridge

While my kids love our fantastic library at Gordon, what they love even more is the pedestrian bridge. It’s a safe way to cross the six lane highway while watching the cars, buses and cyclists pass by.

Back in 2018 we voted that a pedestrian bridge is highly desirable at Lindfield and subsequently the 2020 Local Strategic Planning Statement also implied (but not specifically called out) a bridge.

It wasn’t possible to include the bridge in the 2021 Lindfield Village Hub Planning Proposal as it could only cover council owned land, but at the October Ordinary Meeting of Council (which failed to meet four times) I was hoping to strengthen the wording so that any design for the Hub should interface with a future pedestrian bridge. This is coming back again for the November Ordinary Meeting of Council, which is scheduled for Tuesday 16 November.

Wheelchair Accessibility near Roseville Station

11 days ago a resident contacted me after an incident where her son’s wheelchair got stuck on Pacific Highway due to a lip in the ramp. They were in a bit of a panic because of the six lanes of traffic but fortunately another resident was nearby to help.

Given that it is right in the middle of the town centre and next to the train station, this sort of accessibility issue wasn’t ideal. I raised the matter with council staff and it looks like they’ve fixed it on the station side with a gentler ramp and no lip. A similar fix appears to be underway on the shop side today.

Scooter Adventures

Earlier in the week I had to meet local residents regarding a traffic issue. Figured that I would go out for a scoot as it’s better for my health and for the planet ?.

What I learnt was that some of our footpaths are great for walking but not for scooting. Some of our roads are the preferred option during the day but other roads are not ideal for vehicles with small wheels. Places with steeps hills aren’t fun. More planning is required to select the optimal route.

Local Government NSW Awards

Today I joined Cr Kelly, Cr Kay, and 23 other councillors across NSW in accepting our certificates for completing the UTS Executive Certificate for Elected Members.

The four day course was fantastic and I’d encourage all incoming councillors to complete it after settling 18-24 months into the role. Through this course I met councillors from across NSW. We shared about what’s happening at our councils including what works well and what could be better.

The assessments were extremely relevant and helped me better understand the governance framework within which Local Government operates. It gave me ideas of how we can improve things at Ku-ring-gai, and I hope that next council term we will have a majority of councillors who are receptive to making things better rather than maintaining the status quo.

At the annual award ceremony it was also good to hear about the other councils and projects that made it into the finalist list. There are some ideas that we can borrow at Ku-ring-gai, and when the relevant news article is released by LGNSW I will share the link below.

Congratulations Willoughby!

I congratulate Willoughby Council for joining the UN’s Cities Race to Zero which involves the recognition of a climate emergency and taking steps to reach net zero by the 2040’s or sooner.

Ku-ring-gai too was to debate and consider joining this initiative in the October Ordinary Meeting of Council but unfortunately we did not have enough councillors to proceed on four occasions despite the meeting being available on Zoom.

The latest that I’ve heard is that this along with many other items will be moved to the November Meeting of Council. That’s great news though I expect that for some items such as certain tenders over threshold, we won’t be able to vote on them until February due to the caretaker period.

The option for Online Council Meetings to become permanent

This is exciting news for the Local Government sector, especially regional and rural councils where councillors may live hours away from their council chambers.

What’s especially great is the acknowledgement that “Councils will now have the option to allow councillors to be present for official meetings by audio-visual link if they can’t attend in person because of illness, disability, caring and work responsibilities or other reasons agreed to by council.

The extra flexibility will be appreciated by those councillors who are serious about carrying out their civic duties and attending meetings.