Big picture for Keith
By LEE McDOUGALL
IF you are among those who despise politics and politicians, then be warned ? it's going to be a very long year.
The 2007 NSW State Government elections may still be 12 months away, but the race began this week.
Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, yesterday declared his hand, formally announcing his intention to stand as an independent candidate at the March 24, 2007, elections.
In what many will consider to be the worst kept secret, Cr Rhoades announced his candidature by stating he wanted to offer a 'fresh, new approach' to the residents of the Coffs Harbour electorate.
"The State seat of Coffs Harbour has been neglected by both the Labor and Liberal/National governments for the past 15 years," Cr Rhoades said.
"When the coalition was in power, we were seen as a safe seat and received no attention, and the Labor Government sees the seat as not winnable and rejects it as well."
Cr Rhoades stood as an independent against sitting member Andrew Fraser at the 2003 election, receiving 4411 votes, or 10.66 per cent.
After becoming mayor in 2004, there has been constant speculation that he had his eyes focused on a larger ballgame ? namely, State politics.
Cr Rhoades said NSW residents had in recent years been turning their backs on party politics, in preference for independent candidates.
"This is reflected in seven independents currently elected to the NSW Parliament, simply because they answer to their electors and are not directed to follow party policy or decisions."
When questioned about whether he would stand down as mayor if elected, Cr Rhoades said there had been several examples, including Richard Torbay in Armidale and Alex McTaggart in Pittwater, who were elected to State Parliament while holding position of mayor, and continued to hold both positions.
The 2007 election will be interesting for Coffs Harbour, given that the recent electoral boundary adjustments have seen the electorate reduce from 2307sq.km to just 1081sq.km, with Bellingen and Dorrigo ? traditional National Party strongholds ? being moved into Oxley.