Meet the candidates standing in the Dungog Shire Council election

On Saturday, September 9, Dungog voters will elect nine councillors to represent them on Dungog Shire Council.

The councillors will then elect the Mayor at a council meeting held after the election.

The Dungog Chronicle invited each of the 20 candidates to submit a profile for our readers’ consideration.

This is the list of candidates in the order they appear on the ballot paper in the Wards A, B and C.

If you are unsure of which ward you are in, you can check your enrollment details online by clicking through to this link or in person with the Returning Officer located at the rear of the Dungog Council Chambers or by phone  – 4905 0150.

A Ward, Nancy Knudsen (Independent)

Nancy Knudsen.

Nancy Knudsen.

I believe my strong business background will be of greatest value in the next Council term, where the first priority will be to reduce our infrastructure backlog (roads, bridges, other assets).  This is of prime importance -  but there are other issues too. 

Like many country areas, Dungog Shire is in a time of change, like it or not.   The dairy and timber industries have all but disappeared and to thrive we must embrace a new reality.  The good news is many new small businesses are coming to town - small craft manufacturing, horse breeding, food producing, other agribusinesses and Internet-based businesses escaped from the city.  Income from Tourism, Events and our burgeoning Arts community is also part of the mix.  All of these will bring jobs, and, unlike a mining boom, they won't disappear later.

We need a Council that will  encourage this sustainable development.  This means Council should be business focussed, proactive, listening and consultative, enabling and cohesive.

So I would like to help create, for the Shire, a future where: 

The poll results are honoured; Dungog is strong again, led by a proactive, business-minded council; Our agricultural and rural way of life is protected and promoted; Sustainable development is boosted, our villages' heritage enhanced. New businesses are proactively encouraged; Our caring services are maintained and increased; Tourism is given a high priority; Our Arts community is applauded and strengthened; If merged, institutions are created to protect the above.

A Ward, Tracy Norman (Independent)

Tracy Norman.

Tracy Norman.

Dungog Shire is alive and kicking. I own and operate five businesses in the shire, I support many sporting, cultural and charitable organisations in the shire, and I employ twenty staff, including two young apprentices, all because I believe in the future of Dungog.

Yes the Council has an infrastructure backlog, along with most other councils, including our potential merger partners, and yes there are ways that Dungog Shire Council can improve the way it does business.

The good news is that we four remaining councillors have been busy consulting other council areas that have been in the same boat, and we have received some practical advice on making  such improvements. We have discovered some solutions with proven track records.

To make Dungog Strong Again we need a cohesive council working together to put Dungog on an upward trajectory, so that we could become a more attractive merger partner and can negotiate better outcomes for our region, or can indeed attempt to stand alone, if that’s the community’s choice. We need advocates lobbying the State and Federal Government on behalf of the institutions we hold dear.

I have always consulted with the residents and rate-payers, in my monthly, now weekly drop-in sessions. I have a strong business background and I understand what needs to happen to improve Dungog Shire Council’s lot, I am an active member of the Dungog community, and I empathise with community’s needs and its struggles. I will advocate on behalf of the Dungog Community.

A Ward, John Preston (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers)

John Preston.

John Preston.

Like many other Councils in NSW I had been involved with this year who were unhappy over amalgamations, Dungog was different as I lived there. I was impressed with the Councillors who did not resign. It also became obvious that residents and business had  discovered the importance of the Council in their lives when it was threatened. I had seen this happen elsewhere many times.

Every time I drive on the roads I am horrified at the threat to life. Driving through Sydney and see the gleaming billion dollar freeways rushed into construction, it’s not hard to be indignant about it. 

That’s what prompted me to nominate. It’s been a great experience and I have enjoyed meeting people in town I would not have otherwise bumped into. The campaign has been very cordial and we are seeing the people of the Shire at their very best.

In the first instance restoring stability and cohesion is the first task that lies ahead of us. I expect that an amalgamation model will be rejected. I hope I can offer my knowledge of Local Government and how it relates to people’s daily lives while we chart a way forward and explain what decisions need to be made.

There are so many good people who have nominated I am confident we will be able to do so, which is a great reflection on the people who we live next in place we make our home. The period of despair will soon be behind us.  

A Ward, Kathryn Abbott (Country Labor)

Kathryn Abbott.

Kathryn Abbott.

I am proud to be standing as a candidate for the Dungog Shire Elections..

I am a Cafe Owner and teacher, and the descendant of many generations of farmers in Dungog. I have served with the Friends of the James, and Radio Dungog and Rotary. I have always sought to promote music in our Shire.

I am running for Council because I was concerned by how divisive the question of merger for our community has been. I want to see those relationships and our trust in eachother re-built. Merging doesn't have to be inevitable; let it be the last resort, rather than all that is considered. With forced amalgamations off the board, in any event, it's doubtful who would merge with us.

And of course our Council needs to be financially viable. I am a business owner. I know only too well how tough it is to run on a tight budget. But we are in a unique, powerful position to influence the course of events.

The State seat of Upper Hunter and the Federal seat of Lyne stand in doubt. All eyes are on local events and how they might influence the outcome of these seats. We are the only Council area with no state classified roads. With the powers-that-be suddenly interested in us, let's use this to our advantage and push for this to be changed. This coupled with modest rate rises could see our Council financially viable.

Then we can then look to local issues such as supporting our own roads, and investing in services which build our community, for example, a link bus which connects all the villages in the shire.

And who doesn't want to see a vibrant caravan park? I know I do.

A Ward, John Connors (Independent)

John Connors.

John Connors.

Since 1973 I have lived and worked in the Hunter and for the past 10 years my wife Lisa and I have lived on our 200 acre grazing property outside Dungog.

Since 1982 I have acted for councils in the Hunter, as a solicitor until 2000, and as a barrister until the present time. For over 30 years I have run my own business.

For 17 years I was firstly a board member of Muswellbrook Hospital and later chairman of Upper Hunter Area Health Service.

For over 20 years successive Dungog councils have complained about the lack of a State road running through the shire.  Nothing has been achieved by 20 years of complaining. 

With an income of only $7M from rates and charges there needs to be a fresh approach for the future.

The prospect of amalgamation is no longer certain or even probable. 

Whatever happens the community must be informed and consulted.

The first task for a new council is to rebuild morale within the council staff and to appoint a General Manager to lead the administration into the future.

I will explore all available options for the future of the Shire including a stand-alone model and any available merger proposals. We need above all a comprehensive plan to take us forward and this must include some sort of rate rises as well as other sources of funding to address our infrastructure backlog, especially our roads and bridges.

A Ward, Stephen Farrow (Independent)

Stephen Farrow.

Stephen Farrow.

Why am I standing for council in 2017?

I was born, raised and schooled in Dungog when it was a very busy vibrant town and community in the 60’s 70’s and  80’s where every shop was busy and employing several staff to keep up the demand. Since those times I have also seen Dungog decline.

When I left school I joined the CBC Bank (now NAB) where I was employed for 14 years. In 1986 I returned to Dungog as I felt it was where I belonged, a place I call home. I have a strong determination and passion to rejuvenate the town back to where we are again a thriving community.

I have been a councillor continually since March 2004 up until 1/6/17, a term of 13 years and some 3 months. I could not stay on council any longer to see and be part of the negative decisions being made.

Being a councillor gives me the opportunity to communicate with local people and local businesses and my aim is to talk to these people in the community to find out what is important to them and help make it happen. To assist in helping our shire grow and  prosper now and  in the future. To represent Dungog Shire in the best way possible and in a financially sustainable way.

I believe the next three years will be extremely challenging and interesting. If we all work together we can make a difference.

A Ward, Wayne Streat (Independent)

Wayne Streat.

Wayne Streat.

I have been a resident of Dungog 20 years. My ancestors came her to live in 1841

 I am a father of 8 children. I am a local farmer. I am also a Businessman, having held senior positions with IPEC (Depot Manager), Coles (State Logistics Manager, NSW & Qld), Ansett (State General Manager, Qld, SA/NT and NSW). I have run my own profitable and service centred National & International Logistics Businesses for the past 26 years.

I am offering my business expertise to the people of Dungog Shire. I believe that Business growth & development is critical for the survival of Dungog. This creates employment for our residents, and their children.  Business includes Farming, Tourism, Manufacturing, Arts/crafts, Retail.

The Council can assist by encouraging businesses move here and, for those already here, help them to grow, by adopting an attitude of helping, rather than hindering. This especially applies to development reviews.

As with my own businesses, I believe in a balanced budget and the provision of quality services.

My platform is simple. Take care of business and provide you with the outcomes that you expect, provided that you/we can pay for them.  The council has minimal debt and is cash positive, however there are insufficient funds to do the works that need attention.

I have been successful in achieving great success in my endeavours in private enterprise. If you elect me, I will give everything that I can to fulfil the objectives that you have, and  will, set for me.

A Ward, Jan Lyon (Country Labor)

Jan Lyon.

Jan Lyon.

My decision to nominate came after much deliberation.

Watching how divided our council and community has become. The resignation of 3 Councillors so close to an election - causing residents of the shire asking so many questions, especially “What is going on? Where are we headed?

Born and bred in Dungog. A Wife, mother and grandmother. My family has always had a strong community spirit, especially for the Dungog Shire.

It is time to regain the respect and confidence of the Council in the community. To give a very strong voice for the people of the shire.

So much damage has been done to the name of this shire, both within our boundaries and beyond. I will be looking at our Council becoming sustainable as a rural shire. Road and bridge funding.

It is time we went to the State Government to seek, even demand, more funding. So much money is being given to Sydney roads and infrastructure. We need to have a State Classification in our Shire. That is vital. Our roads do link major roads and we should be promoting this. Tourism – so important to our Shire.

We need to look at our infrastructure, more camping areas and amenities. Reopening of camping areas plus freedom camping areas throughout the shire. Making our towns and villages more appealing.

How can we promote ourselves as a tourist destination without a welcoming atmosphere. Dungog Council has to be the leader in having pride in the look of our shire. Ways of bringing more business to our shire. Having a plan for the shire. All we have been hearing is a plan to give us away.

I have always been a strong supporter of The Labor Party, I wear my politics as a badge of honour. It is time to bring unity back to our shire not the division that has been created. It is time to make your vote count and send a strong message to the State Government that we do

B Ward, Group A, Steve Low AM  (Independent)

Steve Low.

Steve Low.

I served on council between 1999-2008 and was mayor for seven years. We turned council’s finances around, and fought off threats of amalgamation. Importantly, we initiated action attracting millions of dollars in extra grant funding,

The many factors resulting in council being deemed “unfit for the future” have threatened our financial sustainability for a very long time.

Before rate pegging was introduced in 1977, council had deferral general rates rises in times of drought, which amounted to a 20% reduction in annual revenue. Today council collects about $5 million in rates. Over 40 years this has denied revenue of about $40 million in 2017 dollars.

Only about 37% of Dungog Shire’s revenue is derived from rates so grants are important. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth’s financial assistance grants have about halved in real value since 1990, denying us over $20 million in 2017 dollars.

From 1995 the Carr government made council responsible for meeting half the cost of rebuilding worn out main roads without providing a new funding source, which has since diverted about $10 million away from local roads. Dungog is the worst affected council in NSW under this policy.

Little wonder we have an infrastructure backlog. To become fit for the future, council's General Manager indicated that substantial rate rises would be necessary. This would cause hardship for many ratepayers. Whatever the community poll decides, we face uncertain times.

I am standing because council has lost its way over recent years and B Ward has lacked proper local representation. 

B Ward, Group A, David Layzell (Independent)  

David Layzell.

David Layzell.

My name is David Layzell and I live in Clarence Town with my wife and four young daughters. All these women keep me in check. I am a lucky man! I am a Construction Manager for Lend Lease at the Williamtown RAAF base, building infrastructure for the new F-35 jet planes.

I like to think of myself as a passionate advocate of the community. It's not necessarily just the big things that motivate me to stand for Council, like better roads and community services. It is also the smaller things, like ensuring the grass is up-to-scratch on the soccer pitch or the slope of the football field is correct. These issues are important to our everyday lives. 

Clarence Town needs a local representative who will consistently listen to the issues of residents and take action on their behalf. We are a growing town and we need adequate infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the whole community.

My vision is simple. Dungog Shire is already a great place to live but I want it to start living up to its potential. I want it to be a place where my kids want to stay and live.

If you want a hard working local resident who cares about the future of Clarence Town and Dungog Shire as a whole, who will listen and endeavour to work cohesively with local residents, then please vote for David Layzell - "Your local bloke from Clarence Town".

B Ward, Group A, Carol Skafte-Zauss (Independent) 

Carol Skafte-Zauss.

Carol Skafte-Zauss.

I am Carol Skafte-Zauss, independent candidate for B Ward, standing in a team with Stephen Low and David Layzell. We offer B ward voters: local government experience and track record, passion and enthusiasm, business expertise and community spirit.

I have been involved in the local SES, Dungog Community Centre, the Dungog District Chamber of Commerce and a mountain bike club, MTB Dungog.

I have had a number of years experience in adult education and community services and understand working in a competitive tendering environment, an area where our council will need to operate effectively in order to secure much needed grants and funding.

Steve's experience in our local council is extensive (1999-2008, mayor for seven years) – just what we need. David has a young family and is passionate about Clarence Town and the needs of other young families moving into that area.

The time is right for change. The next term of council will be critical in addressing what has been ignored and it requires a “can do” attitude and a total commitment to listening to the views of the community in a timely way rather than as an afterthought. There is plenty to say about our roads, bridges and infrastructure backlog, but saying is not doing and the new council will need to show leadership, intelligence and a united approach to achieve some measure of sustainability for our shire.

That is what our team undertakes to do! The time of missed opportunities must end.

B Ward, Digby Rayward (Independent) 

Digby Rayward.

Digby Rayward.

What does Dungog have to offer?

Rural ambience, lifestyle, great location. We need to maintain this.

What are our challenges?

Infrastructure backlog, financial sustainability – common for many Councils. Lack of road funding from governments – unique to Dungog.

These have not been resolved by previous Councils. A lack of team leadership and a Council without a clear focus on “building the business”, has contributed.

We need to create a business minded Council with a vision to develop strategies for these long-standing challenges. Structural and cultural reforms will follow.

Way forward:

Amalgamation – on the agenda but NOT at any cost – this is not a FIRE SALE OF DUNGOG – but should proceed with an agreed Memorandum of Understanding and community agreement – offers of amalgamation from our neighbours are unlikely, with Dungog generally regarded [incorrectly] as a “basket case.”

Amalgamation is not the “silver bullet” – a long-term strategy is needed to fix our problems.

Work towards a new business model for the Council – it we keep doing the same thing we will get the same results – explore outsourcing – build working partnerships with our neighbouring Councils and Hunter Regional Councils.

A stronger Council will be in a better position with amalgamation discussions.

A new vibrant General Manager, backed by a Council with a common vision of success – not negativity.

Form a subcommittee of “expert “local business people to assist council with its deliberations.

Apply political pressure for Government road funding.

B Ward, Greg Riley (Independent)

Greg Riley.

Greg Riley.

Greg Riley – B Ward. Independent, unaligned and a farmer at Glen Martin.

I would like to use this space to address B Ward issues. Refer to my advertisement in this paper for other issues.

1.       A petrol station for Clarence Town. Council can rezone its land near the corner of Earl St and Clarence Town Rd for a petrol station and grant a DA with appropriate environmental protections. The site can then be sold by tender and the money raised used for much needed works in Clarence Town.

2.       Stop the “rat run” along Prince St. Prince St is used by high speed traffic as an alternative route from Queen St to Rifle St. I propose a couple of speed humps in Prince St to slow this traffic.

3.       Repair the storm water in Queen St. During recent road repairs the storm water mains, opposite the school were damaged. During wet weather this area becomes a bog – presenting a safety risk for parents and children using the school crossing.

4.       Fix the Sporting Fields. The sporting field’s fencing is in a state of disrepair. I propose a joint effort of town volunteers and materials purchased by Council to fix the fencing.

5.       The Museum Site. I will investigate the current situation with the museum site to ensure the integrity of the museum and its ongoing maintenance.

6.       Keep water skiing in Clarence Town. I will ensure that water skiing and other boating activities continue in the river at Clarence Town.

B Ward, Lea Mitchell (Country Labor)

Each of us have a choice this election. We can either give in to the negativity and vote for people who want nothing more than to tell us to give up on our Shire or you can say no we want to send a strong clear message to the State Government, to our State Member and surrounding councils that we are determined to progress change, that we want recognition of who we are and of our importance in the Hunter Valley and the State.

There is a clear choice. That choice is positive and progressive. No one wants more of the same we deserve better and I am seeking your vote to allow this to happen.

This election is like no other we have ever had. Your mark on your ballot paper will determine our identity and I hope our strong determination to fight back.

You walking into that voting booth is simply the most important thing you can do for your community.

I hope that you feel as strongly as I do that we can do this. The way forward is not give up not go back.

Vote for change. Vote 1 Lea Mitchell 2 Digby Rayward 3 Greg Riley.  

C Ward, Kate Murphy (Independent)

Kate Murphy.

Kate Murphy.

Our Shire is trying to do more and more with less and less - and the community is suffering. On Saturday the 9th of September, it’s your job to pick a good team to help.

My name is Kate Murphy and I am standing for Dungog Council in C Ward. I have lived in Dungog Shire for 22 years. I brought up my kids here, I’ve run my businesses here, I’ve battled illness here, lived through storms here - all while being supported by the wonderful community here.

If elected I promise to consult with and genuinely listen to the concerns of the people of Paterson, Vacy, Gresford and communities of the Paterson, Allyn and Williams valleys. I will be a strong voice in council for C ward residents while working to create a viable and sustainable shire.

Dungog Shire is facing enormous challenges. Delivery of service to residents has reduced, retention of council staff is a problem, roads, bridges and other infrastructure are in crisis and the financial situation is beyond critical. It’s time for us all to draw together to turn this around and help our community. We need to elect a group of Councillors who will agree to put aside their individual agendas or party politics and work together as a team. To get the best result for the residents of Dungog Shire.

I want to help and I certainly hope I’m one of the candidates you choose in C ward when you pick your team. 

C Ward, Jennifer Bishop (Independent)

Jennifer Bishop.

Jennifer Bishop.

My name is Jennifer Bishop and I am running as an independent candidate for the upcoming council  elections.

I have lived in the shire for 27 years.  The shire of Dungog is home,  a place where I have forged a career and built lasting friendships and strong associations with sporting, volunteer and social groups. I am not a property developer nor do I hold any businesses that would profit from a position as councillor.  I believe this transparency is important to ensure neutrality and trust. My past business experience and knowledge I have gained over five years as CEO for Maitland Chamber of Commerce would increase my ability to work effectively on your behalf.

We are blessed to live in the scenic shire of Dungog.  I am passionate about our shire and, if elected, will work hard to listen and understand community concerns and act on your behalf.  Because I am not affiliated with any political parties I will focus on grass roots issues with no hidden agenda.

Large developers are changing the face of our community.  There are many locals working  tirelessly behind the scenes to modify their negative impacts.  As a councillor I would  actively support their efforts.  Our roads and gravel tracks are an ongoing issue and by pressuring State politicians we can ensure a safer commute for our residents.

My vision is for a diverse and cohesive council that will focus on maintaining our community spirit and promote our unique lifestyles and location.

C Ward, Glenn Wall (Independent)

Glenn Wall.

Glenn Wall.

I believe that an elected representative to Council, has the potential to make a real difference to people's lives, and that our primary role is to advocate for the businesses and residents of our community and provide a bridge between them and the council.

Unfortunately, this most basic expectation of residents has been ignored by some of the previous councillors.  Over the past 18 years I have strived to understand and represent local views and priorities and build strong community relationships. I have always encouraged local people to make their views known and engage with me on Local Government issues that affect their lives.  The fact that the previous council refused to acknowledge the wishes or consider the opinions of these very same community members that entrusted us with their future, prompted the extreme action of tendering my resignation. Although my action did not alter the direction of the remaining councillors, it did bring the issue under greater scrutiny.

Good communication and engagement is essential to being an effective councillor but they must also listen and act in the best interests of all. It is my goal over the next three years to ensure that Council has clear strategies and policies to enable them to achieve your vision for the area, make the best use of resources and deliver services that ensure our communities are safe guarded into the future. Your  future is in your hands again for the first time in five years – tell me what you want.

C Ward, Lisa Turner (Country Labor)

I am Lisa Turner, Country Labor candidate for C Ward.

I’m not a high profile business person or member of a large community organisation or have any claim to fame except marrying into the wonderful local Dungog family of the Turners. Greg and I live in Paterson on acreage. 

I’m the one you’d call the average worker, the person next door. I work at Ausgrid in Network Mapping. I’m a proud United Services Union workplace delegate, Energy and Utilities Committee of Management and Executive Board Member. This is why I describe myself as an ordinary person with and extraordinary passion for advocacy.

I represent my co-workers in the workplace, USU members in agreement negotiations and energy industry campaigns for the betterment of workers and customers. 

I can offer my experience in dealing with legislation, agreements, governance, meeting procedures, financial decisions and the ability to work within a team to gain the best outcomes through negotiation. 

I became interested in candidacy after what I describe as the ‘failed amalgamation we had to have’. 

I believe I can work to get the whole community engaged. I will build unity within our community where you can voice your concerns and be heard.

I will use my accomplished negotiation skills to argue for our main roads to be re classified to State Road status, guaranteeing improvements to our road and bridges.

I’m standing for local jobs and development in keeping with the rural charm and local services that enhance our lives. 

C Ward, Robert Booth (Independent)

Candidate chose not to participate.

C Ward, James Hopson (Independent)

James Hopson.

James Hopson.


* 67 year old retired dairy farmer

* married with 2 children

* fifth generation to live in the Allyn/Williams Valleys


* Dungog Apex Club - Life Member and past District Governor

* Save the Williams Valley Committee (Chairman)

* Williams River Water Users Association

* Williams River Total Catchment Management Committee (Chairman)

* Hunter Water Community Consultative Forum


* to make sure Council  appoints the best possible general manager. Attitude and morale of staff is driven from the top.

* to push for more residential development at Gresford and Dungog. We need an increasing population in these towns to sustain and grow our current businesses and services.

* securing funding for bridge repair and replacement will be a priority.

After the election, no matter which direction the Council follows (stand alone or merge), it will need to function as a normal council. This will be a difficult but important period in the Council's history.  Differences will need to be put aside to work for the common good.

 We need a fresh start with experienced people with a knowledge of how the Shire has changed over the years and how it needs to continue to change.

Procrastination is no longer an option. Decisions need to be made.