By ALLISON HORE
After nine years on the City of Sydney council, Liberal councillor Christine Forster will be stepping down following the September council elections.
Ms. Forster was elected to the City of Sydney in 2012 and was reelected in 2016. She said while it has been “an honour” to represent the people of Sydney, she will not be running for council again in the September local government elections. Instead, she will be focusing on her full-time job at Woodside, an oil and gas company.
A notable face of Australia’s marriage equality campaign, Ms. Forster married her wife Virginia Flitcroft in 2018 following equal marriage coming into law. Though this was not a local government issue, Ms. Forster said her position as a councillor gave her a platform to speak out for the “Yes” campaign despite her brother, former prime minister Tony Abbot, being against it.
“That was the big one,” she said.
“The fact that I was on council allowed me to be a stronger advocate for marriage equality.”
But throughout her time on council Ms. Forster also advocated for a number of initiatives to help the LGBTQI+ community on a local level. In 2015 she put forward a motion in council to call for a “well overdue” apology to the people who participated in the first Mardi Gras, the 78ers. Her motion passed through council unanimously.
Following the motion, the Lord Mayor Clover Moore wrote to the NSW parliament and the head of Fairfax Media seeking apologies for their roles in the outing and arrest of those who participated in the march.
More recently, Ms. Forster pushed for the rainbow crossing in Darlinghurst which curves around the intersection of Bourke and Campbell streets. The crossing was the first in the world to be both the shape and colours of a rainbow.
Amongst the other “wins” she notes from her time on council are leading the campaign for 15-minute parking in village high streets and banning smoking on Martin Place. She also pushed for a new strategy to revive Oxford Street and support for pet ownership in strata buildings.
Ms. Forster said she also played a critical role in council as an opposition to Independent Mayor, Clover Moore.
“I’ve been the one one consistent voice of opposition in council for the last nine years,” Ms. Forster said.
“So the people who come after me will really have to pick that up and continue to shine a light on the fact that the Lord Mayor is autocratic and she goes about her business in an opaque and non transparent way.”
While she is stepping away from council to “take a breather”, Ms. Forster said she would keep a keen eye on what is going on in Sydney- a city she calls “the greatest city in the world.”
“I have very much enjoyed my nine years on council, and I’ve found being able to assist other people who share my enthusiasm and love of this city in their endeavours, with their ideas and innovations, has been extremely rewarding,” she said.
“But I have a full time job, it’s a demanding job, and i’ve been there for nine years so personally it’s time for me to move on.”
In March last year Ms. Forster said she intended to run for mayor in the September election, but she faced a preselection challenge from within the party which was looking for a new approach to challenge the Lord Mayor’s position. Since then she has reflected on her future in council and said she made the decision to leave a few months ago.
When asked what she hoped to see from the City of Sydney in the future, Ms. Forster said she wanted to see a Liberal mayor. While she couldn’t disclose any details of a possible Liberal candidate stepping up to the plate, she conceded they would have to be a strong candidate to take on the power-house Moore who has served as mayor for almost two decades.
“The Lord mayor is standing and as we know, electorally, she is a force to be reckoned with,” she said.
“Whoever stands against her will need to be a very strong opposition, and need to call her to account.”
The announcement of Christine Forster’s retirement from council comes a day after former member for Wentworth and City of Sydney councillor, Dr. Kerryn Phelps, threw her hat into the ring to run for the top job.
Sydney’s local council election will be held on September 4