By Tang Li
Labor candidate Gloria Nicol and Greens candidate Megan McEwin are fighting for a chance at winning the seat of Vaucluse at this month’s state election, despite it being held by the Liberals since 1988.
The Vaucluse electorate includes the eastern suburbs from Watsons Bay to Woollahra, including parts of Bondi.
Gabrielle Upton, Minister for Family and Community Services, has held the seat since 2011.
Ms Upton said a key election issue was public transport in and out of the electorate.
She said she has added three extra bus services during peak hour times at night between Watson’s Bay and Edgecliff, but wants to add more on and off peak hour bus, train and ferry services.
“Transport is key because Vaucluse is a peninsula and a beautiful area close to the city so you need to provide people with choices to get to places, and not have them worry about travelling there,” she said.
Ms Upton will also lobby to provide better services for residents that live along Bondi Road.
“Because the weekend buses get very crowded with tourists, one thing I’d like to be able to secure is a service that would make it easy for those residents that want to go out to Bondi Beach and its surrounds, but find it difficult on weekends,” she said.
Labor candidate Gloria Nicol also expressed concerns about the area’s public transport system, but believes it is a multifaceted issue that can’t be dealt with alone.
“If we get more development, then roads are going to become a bigger congestion issue, we need more buses, and that’s what I’d like to see,” she said.
“We’ve got underground trains, water and roads. We need to make sure we are more creative and utilise that in a more sustainable manner.”
Ms Nicol is also concerned with the state of women’s refuges in the Vaucluse area following their closure under NSW government reforms last year.
“Domestic violence and women’s refuges should not be denominational, they should be run by communities,” she said.
Greens candidate Megan McEwin raised mandatory council amalgamations as a significant local issue. She said they pose a threat to the Vaucluse electorate and surrounding areas.
Under the NSW government’s Fit for Future policy, each council will assess its current scale, capacity and performance. According to its website, for some councils this will include considering a merger with their neighbours.
“This policy gives us no choice. If councils don’t amalgamate it means they will have restricted rates, and Gabrielle supports this,” Ms McEwin said.
But Ms Upton said this policy would not force any amalgamations.
“If councils meet the financial requirements and other criteria they’re being set, and the community has opposed the policy, then there will be no forced amalgamations,” she said.
She said the Coalition’s current planning laws had led to a large number of council decisions being overturned.
“The Greens want to hand all planning back to local communities by getting rid of that gateway process, and transferring power from developers back to councils, which are the best organisations to decide on things that affect communities,” she said.
Ms McEwin said schools needed more attention and she was concerned local high schools would be unable to accommodate more than 7,000 children in the area.
“There is a massive underfunding of public high schools in the Eastern suburbs and Gabrielle has no plans to rectify that. Greens believe that schools should be provided no matter what, and we shouldn’t use children as tools for privatisation,” she said.
Ms Upton responded that a study is being undertaken to work out educational demands, with many principals citing heavy demand in the area.
“There is a new school that has been announced and that’s an important part of the state responding to demands for public schooling,” she said.