From the Newsroom

Community meets the candidates ahead of election

Emma Pritchard


Their names and faces have become familiar sights across the Clarence electorate.

During the past several months, they have met and spoken with, and introduced themselves, to local dignitaries, community leaders, residents, and their many supporters, as proud representatives of the Clarence Valley, their respective political parties, and independent candidacies, and pledged their intentions and commitments to those around them.

But on March 25, only one will be known as the new Member for Clarence, when the community heads to the polls for the 2023 State Election.

On February 28, Richie Williamson (Nationals), Leon Ankersmit (ALP), Greg Clancy (Greens), and Debrah Novak (Independent), accepted invitations to attend a Meet the Candidates event at the Grafton District Services Club (GDSC).  

After formally introducing themselves to attendees and those watching the event via live stream, candidates were asked three questions which had been submitted to the Grafton Chamber of Commerce by Clarence Valley residents and given the opportunity to respond.

Questions included:

Do you support an ongoing timber industry that only harvests under strict guidelines?

NSW is the last state to legislate minimum rates for performers and bands at $150-$200 for three hours plus costs of $250 per person. When will this legislation be passed in NSW?

Each party has a policy on the future operations of poker machines in NSW. What knowledge does each candidate have of the club industry and the affects a mandatory cashless gaming card will have on clubs and their communities?

Attendees were also permitted to ask candidates their own questions during the evening.

Coordinator of the Clarence Catchment Alliance (CCA) Shae Fleming asked the candidates if elected, what would be their first act in parliament to have the Clarence catchment listed as a prohibited mining zone to protect water, industries, and cultures which rely on the river system.

While Greens candidate Mr Clancy declared a conflict of interest as a foundation member of the CCA, his fellow candidates were united in their opinions.

Mr Williamson said the Clarence Valley is not built for mines, adding “you cannot have a pristine Clarence River and a mine,” while Mr Ankersmit spoke of Labor’s commitment to protecting the Clarence catchment from mining.

Describing it as a “big question”, Independent candidate Ms Novak said while the community needs mining for some things, she concluded by saying “we don’t need mining for others.”

“Especially in a water catchment, or in the Northern Rivers major food bowl,” she added.

“It (mining) would have catastrophic impacts.”   

Following the event, Nationals candidate for Clarence Richie Williamson said it was an informative evening which allowed the community to ask their questions directly to one, or all of the candidates, and brought forward a diverse range of topics as March 25 fast approaches.

To watch the Meet the Candidates event, please visit


Editors note: It was following the meeting (as reported above) a fifth candidate, Mark Rayner from the Legalise Cannabis Party nominated for the electorate of Clarence. See story elsewhere in this issue. Nominations for the State Election closed today (Wednesday March 8).