On this episode of The Drive Home to Hawkesbury, Rachael speaks with Councillor Sarah Richards on local events and issues including one subject close to everyone’s heart the proposed Bells Line of Road Castlereagh corridor. Please share this community link and join us online for the open discussion, thank you.
Sarah is a local resident, dedicated to her family and community. She is a former Lawyer who is passionate about the Hawkesbury and serves the local community in many ways including Human Services Advisory Committee, Hawkesbury Civics and Citizenship Committee, Waste Management Advisory Committee, Hawkesbury Sports Council, Hawkesbury Tourism Advisory Committee and Community Service as Director, Fitzgerald Aged Care, Member, Community Board of Advice – Hawkesbury Hospital, Secretary – Hawkesbury Torch Bearers for Legacy, Secretary – Rotary Club of Kurrajong/North Richmond.
I Live, Love, Hawkesbury and can’t wait to get into today’s episode.
I’m Rachael Goldsworthy and welcome to The Drive Home to Hawkesbury, where I believe every home as a story. And I love sharing those stories on real estate in the Hawkesbury with you.
Here we share the best ways to add value to your property. How to avoid the common mistakes people make when buying and selling property. And how to get the maximum return on your investment with a focus on supporting local business.
I live love Hawkesbury and can’t wait to get into to today’s episode with you. So let’s get started.
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. I’m Rachael Goldsworthy and I’m on The Drive Home to Hawkesbury joined by Councillor Sarah Richards. How are you Sarah?
I’m really good Rachael. How are you today?
Really well thank you. I do apologise to the people that have been waiting online for us, we have had a bit of a delay in regards to internet, so sometimes when the wind is blowing the wrong way, we can get bumped off. So, apologise to everybody that’s watching, but thank you very much for everyone being patient.
So tell me, Sarah, what’s it like being a councillor?
I love being a councillor. To me, as someone who’s worked in the community and in the not-for-profit sector for many, many years, it’s a great way for me to be able to be involved in other aspects of the community. And actually be able to take things to the chamber, to get voted on where they can actually can be implemented and make changes to our communities. So, I’ve had some initiatives since being elected that I’m really proud of. And to me, it makes sure that you’ve got that voice and that ability to actually make positive change.
No, that’s terrific. And we met many years ago at one of the first Hawkesbury Rotary meetings that I went to-
When I first had into Hawkesbury and it was fantastic. And you’re, I believe, still involved with Rotary in some scale?
I am. Yes. So we met about eight years ago through Hawkesbury Rotary, which was a breakfast club. Which met getting up very early and dragging my little kids along with me to those meetings. But now I am, I’m still a member. This time I’ve carried on North Richmond Rotary. Although, their meetings are on Tuesday nights and so are my councillor commitments, so I’m unable to actually get along to many of those meetings now, because of that Tuesday clash. But I do try and get along to other things if I can.
Yeah, it’s hard to be everything to everybody, and I think that it’s difficult sometimes to get to all of the meetings. But at the end of the day, you’re a great community advocate and you’re doing a good job at what you are doing. So thank you.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Just one minute, Rachael. I’ve got a deliveryman who’s just turned up at a door. So, sorry, I’ll just tell him-
Yeah, no –
Back to reality, there you go.
Your life is a reality indeed. And tell me, what is a day like in the life of Sarah Richards? What do you do? What do you get up to?
Okay. So the day always starts with the kids. Got three little ones. Two girls and a little boy. So getting them ready, dressed for school, lunches backed, off to school by 8:30, is always the start to my day. Or weekdays anyway. Weekends is always around sport. Netball, soccer, things like that. So, once they’re taken care of at school, during the day, that’s when I fit in all my other commitments.
I try to fit the meetings between the school hours, although I am out, try to keep it about three nights a week as well with other commitments. So, a day would involve meeting with residents. Talking to residents. Answering emails. And also meetings with my other charities that I’m on the boards of as well. Organising fundraising events. Doing all that sorta stuff. So I never really get a day off. I’ve always got some commitments during the day. Usually centred around the community. So it keeps me busy and honestly it’s my passion. It’s what I love.
No, terrific. I’ve always known you to be a big community advocate and you’re involved in so many boards and community organisations as you do. So, what is a councillor for those people that are watching? What’s involved? What do you have to do when you go to the meetings? Those sorts of things.
Yeah, sure. So, just to explain people, when you say you’re a councillor, you always have to clarify that that means you’re an elected representative in local government. And not somebody that people go in, explain their life issues to, so you have to always clarify with that. But being a councillor is, in Hawkesbury, we have one LGA, there’s no wards, so it’s one group of 12 councillors. The 12 of us sit in chamber. We debate things. We have business papers where the staff provide us with reports and recommendations to vote on things for the community.
A lot of that used to involve planning and DAs, but those, actually going out to what’s called an IHAP, which is an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel. Where we have professional people with a background in planning, who actually decide those sorts of things. Though we are more focused on community aspects. Things don’t just happen in the chamber, we also have a range of committees that councillors also sit on, that meet regularly throughout the year.
I’m on quite a few of those committees. Waste Management. Human Services Advisory Committee, where I get to be involved in affordable housing initiatives, which is something that’s passionate for me. And also looking at the homeless issue. I’m council’s representative on the Hawkesbury Sports Counsel, which I absolutely love. And that goes to the whole four-year term. So we meet additionally once a month, on a Monday night, to actually talk about the sporting grounds and make sure the facilities are up-to-date. And they’ve got amenities on the grounds and things like that, to make sure that our local kids, and actually adults alike, actually have really good sporting facilities. Because I’m always a big advocate for sport and the benefits, socially and physically that that brings.
No, absolutely. I’m exhausted just thinking about all those things in your day. Trying to keep up-
Well, I’ve got a lot of help. People help me. And the kids actually love it, and they love what mum does. And sometimes, they’ll be an odd meeting, 3:30 or 4:00 of an afternoon and it’s quite a few of us councillors who do have young kids. And we might just have to bring them along to the chamber, not a proper council meeting, but a committee meeting or something. Or a residential meeting. Bring them along to the chamber, they know the room that they need to go in, with the big whiteboard and they behave while we do that. So, they’ve become accustomed to doing that as well. It’s become part of their life really, is knowing what mum does.
No, that’s great. And essentially you are a mum and you are a councillor, but I guess when things get involved locally, we’re very passionate about what we do and so forth. But I guess too, with messages that come across when you’ve gotta deliver good news and not so good news to people it’s not always an easy task to do. How do you manage that and have you noticed that there’s been anything that’s happening lately that might be affected by that? Or some people are feeling that way?
Absolutely. The biggest thing in our community right now, and it’s at both ends of our community, in Oakville and also Gross Vale, Kurrajong area. Is the corridor announcement by the state government that happened a few weeks ago. That has probably been the most predominant issue of late. Other than probably the rate rise, which is something we can talk about later if you like? So-
The corridors have caused anxiety, I understand that. A lot of uncertainty in the community. Especially with people, where the corridor has gone through their home or their property, but not only that, those adjacent to it as well. So, I think working behind the scenes, looking at other ideas and ways, and pathways the corridor could take. Also speaking to people. Asking them if a corridor is necessary at all. And also, making sure that in any discussion that involves corridors, where I’m taking feedback directly back to Dominic Perrottet, Stuart Ayers, and state government. Is that we actually do get a third crossing at Hawkesbury River, no matter what political party or where you stand, we all are agreed and united on the fact that we do need another crossing of that river. To actually help alleviate some of the traffic concerns. And we do need a significant infrastructure investment in the Hawkesbury.
So, while I’m taking that corridor feedback back to state government, I’m also letting them know, “Do not take a third crossing or another bridge off the agenda, because that is extremely important.” But something I do want to make known to everybody, who may not all have been following what Council’s doing, because this is a state government initiative, it’s nothing that Council can have any power to stop or put forward. But at our last Council meeting, we did come up with a 12-nil resolution moving forward on the corridors to show the community that we’ve listened to them and we’re behind them. And that Council unanimously agrees that we need to actually come up with a better solution than the one that has been put forward.
And I can absolutely confirm that the state government has listened to that. Dominic’s listened to that. He’s holding forums today, at his office, at the University campus at Richmond. Separate ones for the M9 and also for the Bells Line of Road corridor. And consultation, this is a consultation period, I can’t stress that enough, that finishes on the first of June. And from that point, the government will look at all of those submissions and then give, hopefully come up with some sort of announcement or an outcome based on all of that data.
No, terrific. In regards to that, with people that are watching and don’t know where those roads are going, where’s pretty much the start point that’s proposed for the corridor for Bells Line of Road? And also the M9? Or X9?
Yeah. The Bells Line of Road corridor connects to the Castle Road corridor, which is something that has, the initial one had been gazetted, I think it’s since 1951. Oh sorry, not gazetted, sorry, actually drawn on a map. So people sort of had bought property or made decisions in their lives based on where they thought that was going to be. The current proposal deviates from that. It crosses the river at Castle Road and comes up, when you look at the map, quite far left of Bells Line of Road, up through Gross Vale. And then it tunnels underneath Kurrajong Heights and connects to Bells Line of Road from there.
With the M9 Orbital, it goes through Shanes Park, Marsden Park, and then connects up to Oakville, but it does stop at a certain point there with plans in the future to connect it to the Central Post. Although, where it stops now, isn’t giving anyone any certainty about where it’s going to go from that point on. So, I know that a lot of people have taken those concerns direct to transport for New South Wales. And I’ve taken them direct to Dominic as well. So the only thing I can stress, like I said all along, is just keep emailing, sending your letters in. All by the first of June, that is the cutoff date. And the government will definitely be assessing from there, what they can do to try and come up with something better for the community.
Yeah, absolutely. You make some good points there. And I think the Bells Line of Road Corridor Action Group, they’ve organised for submissions to be written and I know that you’re in support of submissions to being written. And obviously you would be available to help people if they needed some support and you’ve been active in that group as well ’round the stand.
I have so people in that group, I’m very active on Facebook, so people in that group tag my name so that it highlights to me that they’ve got a question. And I go on and I answer those questions and I’m engaging with people all of the time. As much as I can. I’m emailing people, they’re emailing me. Contacting me by phone. I give out my private number to people all the time, because it’s usually the one that’s in my back pocket. The Council one’s usually in my handbag. So I’m more than happy for the people to contact me on my private number, I don’t have any barriers in that regard. And I just wanna make myself as available to people as I can.
And that’s what we love about you, Sarah. You are available for people. You are accessible. You do answer your phone. She messages back very quickly. And she’s always been a great community advocate, so we do appreciate that. Thank you.
Thank you. I try my best, although at some circumstances I do have to put the phone down and actually, maybe do some homework with the kids. So, try and balance, it’s all about balance, right?
That’s why you are a good mum too. Those three beautiful children. So there’s lots of responsibility for you, but I’m gonna ask you a couple of hard questions. And maybe they’re not hard questions, but they’re certainly things that have been raised in the community with the people that I’ve been speaking to, and the acquisition process for the corridor. 200,000 barrier for people. They’re looking at purchasing a property. If they’re wanting to sell their property. If they wanna add value to their property. There’s questions around whether they should or whether they shouldn’t. What’s your opinion in regards to that?
Yeah. So that’s absolutely valid. And we had that discussion about the 200,000 cap on DAs in counsel at our last meeting. And our general manager addressed a lot of those concerns. So if a corridor does get gazetted. If you are in that pathway, you will have a limit. Up to 200,000 dollars on putting in DAs or Development Applications. To do things to your property. Now, I understand that causes people grief and concern, because you know they’ve made an investment in a certain area that’s their home. And now they’re like, “What can I do with my property? Should I do anything with my property? Should I even spend that money if I wanted to do something?” So those concerns are valid.
I can’t stress enough at this point, the road is not gazetted. So, even though that’s a genuine question people have, at this point it’s not something that they need to be 100 percent relying on. Until something does get gazetted. Which then of course, brings in to play the compulsory acquisition. On those properties that would be in the pathway.
And I was at the Transport New South Wales meeting at Oakville on Wednesday night, where a gentleman had this specific question. He said to me, “What happens to my property?” He was an elderly gentleman. He said, “So in 30 years, I probably won’t be around anymore, so what happens in seven to eight to ten years, if I want to sell and go somewhere else for my retirement?” And I said, “It’s absolutely a valid point.” And apparently there might be some criteria for early acquisition? I need to double check on that. And see if that’s possible.
But what I’m reiterating is, you don’t hear in the media a lot of negative stories, or a lot of bad stories about the government ripping people off. The government won’t do that. They make sure that people are fairly compensated for their land. There’ll be the odd case where someone does take the government to court because they believe their entitled to more. But those are usually settled and the government then moves forward with it’s project plan. So, I would reassure people that the government’s not out to rip them off. If anyone is in that pathway, of any infrastructure project, like West Connects or anything like that, they do get fairly compensated.
No, that’s a good fact point that you make. And I think it’s important for people to have an awareness, I suppose, and an education as to what’s actually happening. What has happened. And what’s potentially going to happen as opposed to what hasn’t happened. So, yeah, I think also too, in regards to the corridor, the Bells Line of Road Corridor Action Group, they’ve got the website. So if anybody, sorry, the Facebook page, so if anybody wanted to go onsite to that, they could have a look at that and see what’s going on in the community. But equally, you said that you are available. You’re happy to be tagged in different things on Facebook-
Yeah, you’re very contactable to discuss those matters with the local residents.
Yeah. I’m happy for people to send me text messages. Private messages on Facebook. People message our Liberal Party page. All the time. Our Facebook page. It doesn’t bother me, whichever way they want to get in contact. Details from the Council website. So feel free to contact me anyway you want.
Yeah sure. And what is the Council website, whilst were on that?
It’s hawkesbury, I think it’s .newsouthwales.gov.au, I think it is.
AU? Yes. That’s okay, we don’t get you to look yourself up that often, so-
No, I really don’t look myself up that often. To be honest, I do go on to the website quite a bit. To access other documentation, because they really do file and store things there really well, and someone says, “Oh, I wanna know what the latest community results are?” Or, “Where was that flood strategy document?” They are really well stored on Hawkesbury Council’s website. It’s actually run really, really well that website. And it’s an absolute wealth of information for people to go on there and find things. And it’s updated all the time with what’s going on.
Great resource to have and we’ll certainly, I’ll put a link up on the web here just so that people have that later on. And Dane’s saying, “Hello.” Thank you. Hello, Dane.
Hi Dane. Hello. Excellent. Well can I just say, with the website, I’m just bringing up something on my phone to have a look at the dates. We actually have, right now, some community consultation meetings, booked in. Because part of since being elected, or especially with our fit for the future strategy, which was to put the options of a rate rise to the community. We had to engage in quite heavy community consultation. And we’re actually doing some more of that coming up soon.
And I’ve just got the dates here, if I could run through them quickly, Rachael? If that’s okay?
Absolutely. ‘Cause the rate rise was next on my list to cover actually.
Perfect. Okay. So, the rate rise we’ll probably be the hottest topic at these next round of community consultation meetings. But what I want to stress to people in saying these dates is, the last round that we had, which was similar venues, we sometimes only got two or three people turning up. So, when people are quite engaged on social media and they’ve got a lot to say, either being critical or praising counsel or councillors. We really are trying to make sure that we’re engaging with the community face-to-face. One-on-one. Our head staff and directors and general manager are coming along for these meetings to make themselves available.
So, please get along to these consultation meetings as much as you can. I’ll just run through them very, very quickly. Excuse me, taking my eyes off the screen.
Windsor is Wednesday the 6th of June. North Rich on the 7th. Glossodia is the 12th. Pitt Town the 14th. Kurrajong the 18th. Colo Heights the 20th. Maraylya the 21st. And Saint Albans is Saturday the 23rd. So you can go on to Hawkesbury Council’s website or Facebook page and find those dates. And head along to your local meeting. Meet the councillors and meet the staff. If any concerns you have about any DAs on your property or anything like that, comes straight to the directors themselves.
Yeah sure. And in regards to the rate rises. Is there big rate rises on the horizon? Or what’s the forecast there?
Yeah. So, which is the independent body that needs to agree to any counsel raising their rates above the rate pick. Agreed this week to raise Hawkesbury City Council rates by 31.3 % cumulative over the next three years. So what that means is that every year for the next three years, your rates will go up 9.5%. Plus whatever rate picking would be for the next financial year, that’s to be .3%.
So as of the first of July, when your rates come out again, the whole of the Hawkesbury is going to have that increase. Now, there’s no lie that all councillors didn’t vote for this rate rise and I’ve been, quite vocal in making sure people know which councillors did and didn’t vote for the rate rise and why. We are bound by the local government act to uphold resolutions of council, so I have to be very careful, what I say and how I say it. Because once a resolution does go through council, such as their endorsing the rate rise. That is a policy of council, the council laws need to support.
However, I can stick to the facts and say what I did and didn’t do and why. So, the four liberal councillors did not support the current rate rise, because it was based on a ratings structure that we believe was inequitable to certain sectors of our community. Predominantly, for people around Oakville, Maraylya. That had a spike in their land valuations during the last round of New South Wales actually looking at land values again.
Now under the government act, which is where Council has certain tools available to structure their rates. There’s what’s called a base rate. Now, a base rate is capped at 50%. So what that does, and then the rest, other 50% is based on the land value of the property. The current council structure, only caps the base rate at 30%, which meant 70% of people’s rates were based on the land vaulations. So, the four liberals did fight in the chamber, we wanted that 50% base rate capped at the highest possible legal limit that it could be. So that our residents who were facing higher land values, had the highest proportion, well the lowest proportion they possibly could to pay on rates based on their land values.
So, we were unsuccessful in putting that argument forward, 8 to 4. And the 30% base rate went through. So we do not and still do not support that structure. We’ve had a range of briefings, or rating workshops, since that day, where the 12 of us have sat in a room with the staff and tried to see if we can find another way forward for a different structure. But unfortunately, we haven’t come to a resolution in that regard. And as of the first of July, when the new rates come out, it’ll still be based on that ratings structure that was voted on last year. So, the SRV, so the Special Rate Variation, which then comes in to apply, or basically the rate rise from the first of July, will be based on a structure that I voted against when it was implemented.
So, I know they’re saying on average, it’s only going to be around a hundred dollar mark or so, for most people. But, when you’re talking about averages, you’re not talking about your pig and your pets. You’re talking about a few people in the middle, so there’s going to be some significant people who are hit. The people in Oakville who had their rates double overnight under the current restructure, from 1,900 to 41 dollar rate bills. Have now got the rate rise on top of that.
Now it’s come out that, while we said that we wouldn’t support this rate rise on this new structure. There was always a case that we probably did have to increase the rating call of funds that we have by a certain amount. But two thirds of our community, throughout our previous consultations, said that they did not support that option three. Which was that 31.3% that went through.
So two thirds did not support that. Although two thirds of the community also did support maybe some sort of a rise. Which maybe, it was option one, two, and three. Option one was to stay the same. Option two was a small incremental rise. And option three was your, gold-plated option. So there could’ve been room for option two, but again, I’m gonna be honest. Even though we consulted the community, it went out to public exhibition, all of those sorts of things. We really didn’t get back huge numbers from the community during that process. On what they wanted us to do.
So, to me, moving forward as a councillor. And that’s why I wanted to make sure I highlighted those dates of those next round of consultations coming up, is because community engagement is extremely important to me. But I find that people sometimes on the whole don’t get engaged ’til it hits them personally. Which is the way life works, that’s a normal thing. So part of my role moving forward is to make sure people can get as engaged as they possibly can in their local government. And what their councilor’s doing and what’s going on, so that they are informed. And that they can actually have say.
Yeah, I think it’s a really good point. I mean the message I’m getting from you is that to get involved. To go to the meetings. To have your say. To have a discussion, an open discussion that can be constructive. ‘Cause at the end of the day, you’re a mum. And you’re a person, just like all of us. And we all have different personalities and lives and families outside of our work. So you’re just there doing your very best that you can do for the community and you’re in support of the community and available.
So we do appreciate that and it’s great that you’ve highlighted those dates. I’ll try and put up a link to the website, so that people have that. Moe’s saying hello, he’s on the line. How are you Moe?
I met up with Moe in the Feng Shui conference in China, a few years back-
I hope he’s doing well. We’ll catch up with you again soon. I’m going down to the conference in Melbourne, so basically the next weekend or the weekend after that. But it’s been really good to talk to you today, Sarah. And I think it’s unpacked a few myths, possibly. And also, people will know the real Sarah Richards and where you’re at and what you’re doing for council. And I think too, in regards to the community, it’s so important to get involved. Put your hand up and just interact. And I’m sure Sarah would love to hear from you and help you with any solutions that you have. The date is the first of June for the corridor, to get those in, is that right?
First of June, absolutely.
And then, if we look at doing any other submissions or if you’ve got any other comments in regards to what’s going on the community, definitely get in contact with Sarah. If they wanted to contact you, how would they do that? Other than Facebook?
Yes. All our details as councillors are on the council website. So if you just go to the Hawkesbury Council website. Look up councillors, they’re there. People are also free to contact me on Facebook, private message me. On my Sarah Richard’s private page. Or they can also go to Hawkesbury Liberal Team, where I have a page as well. And all councillors were also given a page, up and running through council. So, Councillor Sarah Richards is another Facebook page they can go to. Email me. Call me. Whatever they want to do. I’m available to chat all the time.
No, that’s terrific. Well thank you so much for your time today, Sarah. I really appreciate it and thank you to everybody being on the line and saying hello. I think Margaret featured earlier.
Well thank you to your community. I appreciate you giving me this chance to come on and have a chat. I think it’s a great thing what you’re doing. And bringing on different aspects of the community on to your show just to have a chat and highlight these sorts of things. I thank you.
No, you’re most welcome. And that’s what I’m all about too. And we’ve got a common bond in that regard. Community and advocacy in the area. And I just want to help and get the best outcome for everybody. So, thanks for joining me on this episode. Thank you to everybody and we will catch up with you on the next episode. See you Sarah.
Great. Thank you. Bye!
Thank you. Buh-bye.
Thank you so much for taking time out, listening to today’s episode. If you have any questions on the process of buying, selling, leasing, or strata management, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes. And I’d really appreciate it if you could spread the word by liking and sharing this episode with your family and friends.
I’m Rachael Goldsworthy and I look forward to catching up with you on the next episode of The Drive Home to Hawkesbury.