Backchat with Bellingen Shire Mayor Dominic King

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Rod interviews Bellingen Shire Mayor Dominic King. They tackle the big questions about life, Dom’s first year in the top job and the time he floored David Campese.

How long have you lived in the Bellingen Shire?
12 Years.

You’re a high school teacher by trade. Are you currently teaching in this region?
I am doing one day a week at Bowraville Central School.

How long have you been an active member of the Greens?
About 11 Years.

You were a councillor for 4 years before running as Mayor.  What were your reasons for wanting to be Bellingen Shire Mayor?
I really enjoyed the challenges of being a Councillor and thought it would be great to take it to the next level. The beauty of being the Mayor is that you get to work within the Shire but it also gives you opportunities to work with the neighbouring Mayors and push our agenda on a regional level. It also gives you more clout when you’re trying to pressure State and Federal Governments to start properly funding Local Government. Finally it gives me a seat at the table with a wide range of people when I am talking up our opportunities of becoming the most sustainable LGA in Australia.

Can you describe your first 12 months as Mayor of the Bellingen Shire?
It’s been really exciting, a little bit challenging and extremely busy.

Has the reality matched your expectations?
Yes. It has certainly been a rapid learning curve but I am loving the role and believe in the ability of the Bellingen Shire Council and this community to do great things.

This year we have seen some contentious issues being dealt with by Bellingen Council.  Has the community sentiment on these issues surprised you?
Yes and no. I think The Bellingen Shire residents are known for their passion and they will certainly let people know if they disagree with something. However change is inevitable and many residents understand we have to make changes for the greater good and they accept that we are doing what we believe is the right thing. In saying that though some of the vitriol and misinformation was a bit of a surprise.

What have you learnt in this first year?
That issues are never clear cut and you can’t keep all of the people happy all if the time.  Also Local Government is getting a very raw deal from State and Federal Government in terms of funding.

Has being the Mayor made teaching rebellious high school students look easy?
No it’s the other way round.

Being a Green Mayor- do you despair at the lack of leadership this country is displaying on environmental and social issues?
Definitely.  In particular there seems to be a serious case of ignoring the science and warnings around a changing climate. The implications of this for us as a small rural community is really scary. It will impact on how we grow food and how we provide protection from more extreme floods and bushfires for starters. Also the continuing issues around affordable housing and employment opportunities for our residents seems to just keep being put in the too hard basket.

Do you see your role as Mayor as a possible stepping- stone to State or Federal Politics?
Not at this stage. I am just stoked to be the Mayor of this amazing Shire.

If you were PM what changes would you make?
The first thing I would do is stop the terrible and unlawful treatment of the people seeking refuge in this country. I would also tax the big corporations to pay for free tertiary education for all Australians and I could go on and on.

You were a Rugby player for Parramatta.  What position did you play?
Inside Centre

Has your rugby career finished or will we see a comeback some day?
I have just signed a contract with Barnstoneworth United in the Urunga 2nd division, 6 aside comp.

Any grand plans for the next 3 years in your role as Mayor?
There are a number of things I would like to see happen before the end of my term. The completion of the Urunga Tidal Swimming Pool, The opening of the Dorrigo Steam Rail Museum, the further protection of our amazing biodiverse forests and unique river systems, the branding of the Bellingen Shire around growing and value adding more clean, green produce, the opening of a shared working space with super-fast internet, Bellingen Shire being the most innovative and sustainable shire in the country and I might stop there otherwise I will be here all day.

What are the top 3 environmental issues you would like to tackle over the next 3 years in your role as mayor?
The top three would be protecting the catchment of our two river systems which would mean stopping the industrial style logging in our state forests, stopping the uncontrolled growth of the factory farming industry within our shire and improving our management of waste.

Your best memory of childhood was?
Hanging out all day on my bike with my friends (until the street lights came on of course).

Your best sporting moment was?
Playing a Ist grade rugby match for Parramatta against Randwick when they had the Ella brothers and David Campese playing for them. I crunched Campo in a tackle and made him drop the ball.

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David Campese moments before Dom floored him

What would you like to be remembered for?
Being passionate and fair.

What do you avoid in life?
Negative people.

What are you reading right now?
Believe it or not ‘Crime and Punishment’ by Dostoevsky.

What really annoys you?
Racism.

The best lesson your parents taught you?
To be Compassionate.

The last big belly laugh you had was?
Bellingen Winter Festival opening night listening to Mandy Nolan.                                                                              

Who inspires you?
The half of the world’s population who live on less than $2 a day.

How do you relax?
Mountain biking, swimming, having a beer and gardening.

The previous career you wish you could forget?
Fire sprinkler fitting.

Your current passion is?
Being the Mayor.

Favourite country to visit and why?
Ireland. It’s where my roots are.

In the Movie Domgate, who would play you?
Sean Penn.

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