Bold political move to stand solo

Dr Sally Townley switches to run as an independent in State seat of Coffs Harbour: Dr Sally Townley switches to run as an independent in the NSW State seat of Coffs Harbour.
Dr Sally Townley switches to run as an independent in State seat of Coffs Harbour: Dr Sally Townley switches to run as an independent in the NSW State seat of Coffs Harbour.

DR Sally Townley has announced that she will stand as an independent candidate in the state electorate of Coffs Harbour, ending her bid to win the federal seat of Cowper for The Greens.

Dr Townley, who has been locally renowned as a voice of accountability on the Coffs Harbour City Council for six years, told The Advocate she would always regret her decision if she did not contest the seat of Coffs Harbour, to be vacated by The Nationals MP Andrew Fraser after 29 years.

"I believe that the people of Coffs Harbour deserve true and honest representation, which serves them and not the political vested interests in Sydney," Dr Townley said.

"We need strong local representation to bring new investment for real and sustainable jobs.

"Coffs has an amazing base of natural resources, we need to protect these for our future prosperity."

Dr Townley's emergence as an independent candidate follows the move by Rob Oakeshott to recontest the federal seat of Cowper to be vacated by the Nationals incumbent Luke Hartsuyker, who this year is stepping down from politics after 18 years in office.


Greens Launch council election team.Sally Townley,.11th august 2016.
Sally Townley. Trevor Veale

Dr Townley said she felt she could offer "the best and fairest future for Coffs Harbour" as an independent state candidate, in confirming she would withdraw as a Greens candidate contesting the federal seat of Cowper.

"At the state level, we have seen the unashamed mismanagement of natural resources like water, resulting in environmental disasters such as what's occurring with our western rivers right now," Dr Townley said.

"The Coalition has been selling the environment up the river, literally, to big agribusiness interests. We need a representative who will stand up for people first, to make sure this sort of disaster doesn't happen in our backyard."

She said her focus was much wider than environmental issues, pointing to health and employment as key drivers for Coffs Harbour.

"The largest employment area in the region is health-related services," she said.

"We need to ensure ongoing investment in health services. The Coalition has not prioritised health spending and our region is suffering, both in terms of service provision as well as jobs.

"Vocational education is another area which has been abandoned by the Coalition.


Council meeting discussion on intensive agriculture with blueberries in Coffs Regional.Cr Sally Townley. 23 march 2017
A Coffs Harbour City Council meeting discussing intensive agriculture and blueberries in 2017. Trevor Veale

"The Tafe system has been gutted and urgently needs rebuilding. Access to vocational education is a key part of reducing our massively high youth unemployment."

Dr Townley said she wanted to see Coffs Harbour become a centre of innovation, especially in terms of waste technology and renewable energies.

"There is opportunity to reinvent the way we do things," she said.

"Neither major party has a credible plan around climate change. It's the biggest challenge we face and I think most of the population recognises this."

She said without question the bypass was an election-defining issue.

"It should ring warning bells with everyone that the Nationals have been attempting to deceive the public with 'land bridges' and constantly changing the concept plan without showing supporting documentation," she said.

"The sudden recent change suggests they don't really have a solid plan and that honest, transparent communication is not how they roll.

"They are not guaranteeing tunnels and cannot be trusted. A strong member with a proven track record is to bring the best result for a Coffs bypass and this includes three bored tunnels."

Dr Townley said she was not afraid to stand up for what's right, citing her "whistle blowing" exposure of the State Government's secret plans for a high rise at the Jetty Foreshore in 2017.

"This brought forth community action and led to scrapping of the high rise and inclusion of the community into the decision making," she said.

She said her questioning of the blueberry industry as a Green and councillor had led to some changes in industry practices but more needed to be done.

"Without clean water and healthy farmland we have nothing," she said.

"We need to build on the work done by innovative and competent food producers."

Claiming that party-controlled politics had failed dismally, she urged voters to think clearly about the future.

"Allegiance to a regressive, outdated system has not paid off for Coffs," she said.

"Let's design a new future for ourselves with strong, independent representation."