Tenterfield tops Saffin's agenda in first day on the job

A Tenterfield council meeting was one of Janelle Saffin's first outings as the new member for Lismore.
A Tenterfield council meeting was one of Janelle Saffin's first outings as the new member for Lismore.

She may not have officially been Tenterfield's state representative when she arrived on Wednesday morning but by the time she left, Labor's Janelle Saffin was the holder of the seat of Lismore. The day's distribution of preferences gave her 51.35 per cent of the vote over the National's Austin Curtin on a Two Candidate Preferred basis.

Ms Saffin's first unofficial/official outing as the Lismore MP was to the shire, where she skipped across the border to the council monthly meeting, being held in the Wallangarra Hall. (The meeting was one of the biannual village meetings, originally scheduled for last month but postponed due to the bushfire situation.)

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Addressing councillors she conceded that for many people a Labor representative would feel different after so many years of National Party representation.

"I'm still your representative, regardless of party," she said.

"My first obligation is to represent you and your community.

"I'm feisty, and I know who to fight."

She said during the campaign she gleaned that those west of the range often felt forgotten.

"That won't be the case with me."

She has worked with mayor Peter Petty before and has already established a relationship with him, so anticipates a good connection with council.

"There are basic issues that apply to all communities but then each community has its own unique issues," she said.

"I want to understand more about what they are here. I have a reputation as a hard worker, and that's what I bring to you and to council."

As the federal member for Page from 2007 to 2013, the 64-year-old married former solicitor said she worked with five different councils to push through their issues at state and federal levels, and she'll be doing the same here.

Councillors Don Forbes, Gary Verri and Greg Sauer line up for the MP's ear, with Cr Sauer donning his hat as chair of the National Monument steering committee to introduce that topic.

Councillors Don Forbes, Gary Verri and Greg Sauer line up for the MP's ear, with Cr Sauer donning his hat as chair of the National Monument steering committee to introduce that topic.

Councillors and council staff weren't backward in informing her what those issues include. Chief executive Terry Dodds denounced the waste of administrative effort put into navigating the huge volume of 'red tape' in funding applications for essential items like bridges, requiring a 'business case' to justify infrastructure that has been in place for generations.

He also sought ongoing assistance with the shire's timber bridges replacement. Although she's a Labor MP in a coalition government, Ms Saffin said both campaigns had promised funding for local roads and she would push to see that the coalition's promise was carried through, ideally with the flexibility to include bridges as well.

Other issues now also on her radar are the reopening of the Rural Fire Service control centre in Tenterfield, the daunting process for farmers to access drought relief, cross-border ambulance transfers, and fuel build-up in the 34 per cent of the shire managed as public land, threatening the ecology as well as creating a fire risk for private landholders.

Cr Bronwyn Petrie said of the latter these lands are not rateable so the burden is borne by ratepayers. The panaceo is supposed to be tourism income, but with Bald Rock and other nationals parks closed in the wake of the bushfires, tourism is severely dented.

"I don't promise to fix it, but to look into it and advocate," Ms Saffin said of the issues raised.

She also assured Cr Petrie that winning the seat of Lismore on the back of Greens preferences does not obligate her to embrace their policies.

"I'm the member for everybody," she said.

"I care about the economy, environment, water, health, community and potholes, and that's how I will represent you."

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