Thoughts on Racism, Conflict and War

In the coming months there will be further talk about economic sanctions, boycotts, lethal aid, armed conflict, and war. And I can’t help but notice that in both our printed and social media there appears to be people out there who are (consciously or subconsciously) promoting a universal hatred of anything and anyone Russian. While I understand the sentiment, I think it may be taking it too far.

The actions of a leader do not necessarily infer anything about the values of the people they seek to represent. If ScoMo holds up a lump of coal in parliament, would you want the International Community to think that all Australians are the same? If our Premier, Mayor, or even I as your lowly councillor do something silly, do you think that we therefore speak and act on behalf of all of you?

Yes the people of Ukraine need our support and yes there is a time and place for appropriate economic sanctions, but I also hope that we can still treat Russian and Belarusian people here in Ku-ring-gai with respect and not make assumptions about their values. They are probably just ordinary people like you and I, hoping to live a harmonious life here in Australia without people giving them a hard time about things that they may or may not agree with. I know I’ve personally been given a hard time on occasion for my appearance, country of birth (a British Colony), or for false rumours that other petty people in politics or in the community have raised and it’s quite disrespectful, painful, and not fun at all. So I hope that we can reach out to other residents and treat them with respect rather than just make assumptions about their values.

Local Government NSW Special Conference

This week we had councillors across NSW meet to exchange ideas, discuss policy, and agree on State and Federal advocacy matters. Key themes were financial sustainability, climate change and resilience, housing stress, domestic violence, reconciliation, and the impact of recent economic developments to the delivery of council services.

I was encouraged to see eight Ku-ring-gai Councillors engaged and attending the conference this time around (usually there’s only 2 or 3 of us). Hopefully we will bring some ideas back to benefit our residents here in Ku-ring-gai.

How Reliable are your RATs?

With the increased availability of RATs and the return to school, I found this ABC article helpful in explaining false negatives (sensitivity) and false positives (specificity).

The TGA also recently published a list that suggests that some RATs are not as good at picking up Delta and/or Omicron than others. It leads to confusing situations such as two weeks ago when I was consistently getting a positive result from one brand but getting negative results from another brand and from the PCR. As a precaution I isolated from the rest of my family and the world for a week, and things got pretty lonely in my room though it was nice to have family meals over Zoom.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-27/how-accurate-rapid-antigen-test-more-looking-for-lines/100782662

https://www.tga.gov.au/post-market-review-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests

Citizenship Ceremony and Awards

It was great to see 135 residents from 27 countries become Australian Citizens today. This is a great nation to be part of.

Council also presented Citizen of the year awards to five of our residents / groups.

Easy Care Gardening was recognised for their outstanding contribution to the community bay assisting housebound, elderly and vulnerable residents.

Yoel Hyman was recognised for his contributions to the community through RFS, Killara Brigade, and other community forums.

Jen Stokes was recognised for her contribution to the environment through @kuringgaiboomerangbags and the West Pymble Community Garden.

Oliver Conolly was recognised as young environmental citizen of the year for raising awareness of Ku-ring-gai’s vulnerable bird populations.

And our dear friend Helen Jarvis was awarded citizen of the year for her contribution to KYDS Youth Development Service during this difficult time of the pandemic when our young people and their families are in need of support more than ever. I have personally witnessed how she selflessly gives her time and money to the welfare of our people.

Holiday Photos & EV Infrastructure

Sharing some photos from our recent break in Country NSW (and ACT). It was good to have some time off with family; as a councillor it’s very rare to be able to focus 100% on them.

Also went to check out some of the regional EV chargers. As a general trend the Tesla ones are paid, fast and very reliable whereas the NRMA ones were decent speed but slower, with some of the EV drivers that I spoke to (including myself) experiencing reliability issues with them from time to time. We counted 35 electric vehicles over 11 days and across six sites.

I’m keen to see what we can do to encourage uptake in Ku-ring-gai by introducing a charging network, however want to first do research into what our neighbouring councils are doing and how they are finding the experience so far (as each seems to have gone with a different networking provider).

Back from Holidays

I’m back in Sydney after a holiday through regional NSW. Was surprised to see some of our supermarket shelves so bare, and to see the fairy lights at the soon-to-open Lindfield Village Green.

The councillors will be sworn in tomorrow night, and that’s when we will officially commence our jobs. There’s a list of things to catch up on, so I’m looking forward to sorting through it.

Festive Season at St Ives

We visited St Ives Shopping Village to have a quick lunch, charge up the car for free (25% in 71 minutes), and visit the seasonal attractions.

There is the Community Tree of Joy run by St Ives Rotary where we are encouraged to pick up a card from the tree, purchase a gift for the person in need, wrap it up, and return to Rotary for distribution. It’s something worth doing if you are in the area.

This year there is also an art exhibition to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability. The Gallery is located on the ramp in the middle immediately above the EV chargers, and the art is on display from today through to 21 January 2022. Worth checking out if you dare to brave the shops at this time of year.

Chanukah on the Green

Despite yesterday’s rain forecast we had a pleasant day and the annual Chanukah on the Green organised by @ChabadNS went ahead.

Chanukah is an eight day religious festival where the Jewish people celebrate their victory over the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes IV during 2nd Century BC. (Some people believe that this was foretold in the book of Daniel.)

We got to see the lighting of the Menorah (candle) as well as a range of other shows and dancing.

Two other councillors chose to attend this event. St Ives Ward Councillor Christine Kay and Gordon Ward Councillor Peter Kelly. Their regular support for the Jewish Community is appreciated.

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 https://roseville.online

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.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2114351825383127/

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.

Two Creeks Track

We enjoyed the sights and sounds of this bushwalk over the weekend. Stretching through the suburbs of Roseville Chase, East Lindfield and Lindfield, this is a great way to get exercise and experience nature within our LGA. It’s also amazing to see how many people were on the track; we came across a few dozen whereas pre-pandemic it would have been less than a dozen.

💉 First AstraZeneca Jab 🦠🦠🦠

Enjoying a lollipop after my first jab. Like many other under 40’s, I’ve had to consider whether to follow ATAGI advice and wait for Pfizer or to just get AstraZeneca now. I’ve had conversations about the risks vs benefits and decided that in my particular case, it’s best to get vaccinated given that we are about to enter an election campaign. I’d imagine that other front line workers such as teachers and taxi drivers may be considering the same.

The Roseville Vaccination Centre has plenty of next day timeslots for those who want to get vaccinated with AZ, and the process was relatively quick (14 minutes). I’d encourage everyone to consider when they should get vaccinated (and get AZ if you are over 60) because the sooner that we are all vaccinated, the sooner Australia can return to normal.

If I experience any side effects such as aches, pains, or increased internet speeds I will let you know in the coming days.

COVID Testing and Lockdown

To all those who are about to enter lockdown, I wish you well. Many school holiday plans cast aside and much restlessness at home.

If you have any symptoms, please get tested as we need the data to protect the public. I had to get a test earlier this afternoon at Killara, the queue went all the way back to Nelson Road but at least it was all done in the comfort of my car. All up it took about twenty minutes which was a real surprise.

MBA Exchange at Oxford

I believe it’s important for councillors to invest in professional development so that they can better serve the community. These last two years I’ve been completing an MBA at my own expense and was recently selected to go on MBA Exchange at Oxford. It’s a shame that international borders are closed because I miss out on the travel and networking experience, but I know that what I’ve learnt regarding land use, valuations, emerging trends, as well as the role of debt and risks with large scale developments will be of use when it comes to building our community hubs in Lindfield, Turramurra and Gordon.

Thanks to AGSM at UNSW Business School for giving me this opportunity.

Dine and Discover

We had a rare night out without the kids at Mangiasti? in Roseville Chase. We sat at the bard and watched out food get cooked. The food and atmosphere was great. We used a Dine and Discover voucher as well. Definitely worth checking out.

Lest We Forget

Today many of us gathered to remember over 100,000 Australians who died in armed conflict and the many others who returned, often with physical or mental scars that impacted their families. It is because of these sacrifices that we can live here today.

Start of Netball Season

I caught up with the netball community this morning. An emerging theme in this year’s discussions has been the chllange of encouraging immigrant families to participate in local sports, and having been a migrant in the 80’s and 90’s I was happy to offer some insights. I look forward to contributing to this space in the coming years.

Lindfield Fun Run

I joined over 1,200 runners this morning as we jogged through the hilly streets of Lindfield and Roseville. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people in the community and raise funds for KYDS Youth Development Service. Special thanks to those who donated to my run with just over $500 raised.

KYDS is a Northern Sydney charity that provides mental health and other preventative services to our young people, confidentially and free of charge. (I also happen to be on its board.)

The quarantine year of 2020 saw a huge increase in demand for their services, with over 5,400 counselling sessions delivered to our young people (up from 3,300 in the prior year). The wait list is also growing, meaning that young people may have to wait a few months before getting their first service.

The funding situation has become very challenging this upcoming year so if you would like to know how you can offer support (time or money) please reach out and we can discuss.

Bobbin Head Cycle Classic

Each year over 2,000 cyclists and 400 volunteers participate in this fundraising event. Organised by our local Rotary groups, it raises over $200,000 for Lifeline and other local charities.

This year I’m volunteering at this lonely outpost in St Ives. It’s been fun watching cyclists come by (and planes fly overhead).