By Doug Hine
SYDNEY — Balmain Green activist Nick Masterman is likely to be the last candidate elected to Leichhardt Council, contributing to a strong progressive majority of 10 on the 12-member council. Masterman was originally to have headed the Sydney Greens ticket but stood as an ungrouped independent following the collapse of the ticket due to infighting.
The council election in Leichhardt was held in the shadow of state government threats of intervention over the rezoning of five old industrial sites on the Balmain peninsula.
Earlier this year the state government's appointment of a commissioner to take over the council's planning powers was overturned by court action initiated by residents.
Residents fear that the construction of high-to-medium density accommodation on the sites will be detrimental to the community, for example in terms of chronic traffic problems, the lack of open space and the impact on streetscapes. As well there is the issue of chemical contamination on some of the sites.
The old council was evenly divided between pro-development forces and progressive alderpersons supported by the residents. This make-up produced an inconsistent council, for example referring the rezonings to a public inquiry but not financially supporting the residents' court action against the state government.
In the September 14 election the ALP stood a progressive ticket, with backing from left-wing state parliamentarian Sandra Nori. Alderpersons from the right-wing ALP faction, known as the "Brady Bunch", which had been dominant in council, were not preselected. Four from the ALP ticket were elected.
Community independents Larry Hand and Sue Stock were re-elected and are joined by Rozelle resident activist Kath Hacking.
The vote fell for the "Open Council" ticket of long-time alderpersons Nick Origlass and Issy Wyner, enabling only Origlass to be returned.
Masterman is delighted with the response to his campaign. "I stood mainly to put across the concept of mixed living environments — in contradiction to the mind set of open space or residential. My campaign slogan was 'Living/Working/Playing Communities'.
"I am opposed to the creation of dormitory suburbs and want to see employment and soft industries reintroduced into communities. The chaos on the roads and pollution of all forms can be catalysts for the move towards development of sustainable communities of a human scale.
"I feel that the concept of solely residential development was defeated in this election campaign." "Regardless of whether I get elected or not, it will be 10-2 or 9-3 progressive versus conservative on council — it's great!"
Masterman said the new council "will be looking closely at its policy on development. A three-day workshop for all alderpersons is being organised where we will address the issues of transport, mixed development zonings, building codes and so on."