Wikinews interviews Anda Banikos, local council candidate in South Gippsland, Australia
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Since June 2019, the people of South Gippsland Shire, located at the southernmost tip of Australia, have been without a local council, after a state government inquiry found "high levels of tension" within the council. Administrators were appointed by the Victorian state government in July 2019, who have governed the shire since then. However, South Gippsland's council is scheduled to be restored with an election to be held via post from October 5-22, 2021.
Wikinews interviewed one of the candidates standing in this election, Anda Banikos, an independent candidate running in the Coastal-Promontory Ward. The Coastal-Promontory ward covers towns such as Venus Bay, Waratah Bay, Yanakie, Foster, Port Welshpool, and Toora, and elects three councillors to the South Gippsland Shire Council.
((WN)) What do you hope to achieve as a councillor?
((Anda Banikos)) As a South Gippsland Shire councillor, my priorities will be:
- Restore trust in Council:
- respectfully connect Council with the individuals and organisations that are already doing great work in our Shire;
- advocate for a democratic people's voice in Shire decisions.
- Recognise the climate emergency and plan a sustainable future for South Gippsland that is fair for all. We must find creative, practical ways to decarbonise our region, to support biodiversity and the many local businesses that rely on our natural environment.
- Advocate for fair housing. We need affordable, sustainably-designed public housing precincts close to amenities, and sustainably remodelled existing houses.
- Support regenerative farming. Provide biodiversity credits, carbon credits, or other rate offset options for regenerative farming practices.
((WN)) Do you think the two-year period that South Gippsland Shire has been governed by administrators since its 2019 sacking has been too long, and why/why not?
((Anda Banikos)) Two years is too long, as the administrators are not a democratically elected people's voice. After the elected council was dismissed, it was appropriate to appoint administrators without connections to our Shire. However, in my view, the administrators should have been able to get their job done and new elections organised within a year, not the two years it has taken. During these two years, the administrators have made decisions and implemented plans without transparent community scrutiny or input. I look forward to the new Council working effectively with the community on future plans for our Shire.
((WN)) Wilsons Promontory National Park, which takes up the majority of Coastal-Promontory ward's land area, attracts a significant amount of tourists on a yearly basis. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the current lockdown, there has been a large impact on local businesses. What do you think needs to be done to help business recovery?
((Anda Banikos)) Ways our Shire can support small businesses recover are:
- Promoting our region as a tourist destination and providing a public transport system linking the V-Line service from Melbourne with Wilson's Promontory National Park.
- Assisting business groups that are seeking funding from sources outside the Shire (e.g. State and Federal funding opportunities) with grant writing.
- Streamlining planning approvals and expanding services to support our increasing resident population.
((WN)) What changes and reforms would you like to see in regards to environmental protection?
- Short and long-term environmental & biodiversity effects should be considered a priority in all aspects of planning.
- Funding with the long-term in view, including working with neighbouring shires to attract Federal & State funding.
- Establishment of biolinks between existing wildlife habitats (e.g. completing the Lyrebird Link to connect Cape Liptrap Coastal Park with the Strzelecki Ranges).
- Protecting and supporting the Strzelecki koala population, the most genetically diverse koalas in Victoria. These koalas are found from the Strzelecki Ranges through the Shire to the coast.
- A moratorium on native forest logging in our Shire, with a plan to support the transition of existing workers in these industries to other jobs, such as in infrastructure, tourism or fire management.
- Protecting and restoring the seagrass beds, intertidal marshes and mangroves along our coast. These ecosystems are fish nurseries for recreational fishers, rich sources of biodiversity and effective carbon capture ecosystems.
- Rate discounts or rebates for landholders participating in specific conservation programs, such as putting areas of habitat under conservation covenants.
((WN)) What do you think qualifies you to be a local councillor?
((Anda Banikos)) I have lived in South Gippsland for three decades, moving here with a young family in the 1990s. I currently teach at Fish Creek PS and have worked in most of the schools in Coastal Promontory Ward over the past 25 years. I have experience with mixed ability education and have been a carer for young people with disabilities.
My community involvement has been with an arts and environment focus. As an active member of Prom Coast Arts, I have been involved in organising wide-ranging community arts events such as The Prom Coast Festival, The Fish Creek Tea Cosy Festival, The Great Southern Portrait Prize and the HorseArtsAnzac project. I am also an active member of Landcare and Friends of the Prom.
My community involvement and work have all involved respect, goodwill, listening, creative thinking, collaboration and bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and views to produce a mutually worthwhile outcome. I will work with integrity and respect for a better future for all of South Gippsland.
((WN)) In your local community, are there any specific projects you'd like to highlight and advocate for?
- Public transport to connect the Prom with V-Line services.
- Completion of the Lyrebird Link between Cape Liptrap Coastal Park & the Strzelecki Ranges, to secure our lyrebirds and unique Strzelecki koalas.
- Sewerage for Fish Creek.
- 'Putting the Fish back into Fish Creek' project to clean up the Fish Creek water catchment.
- Watch for Wildlife signage on roads.
((WN)) During the COVID-19 lockdown, how have you reached out to local voters?
((Anda Banikos)) It has been a challenge to connect with voters during lockdown! Some of the strategies I am using are:
- Facebook: AndaBanikosIndependent
- Website: andabanikosindependent.org
- Articles in our local newspapers.
- Emails, phone calls and Zooms with existing contacts and as many representatives of community groups as possible.
- Participation in online candidate forums.
((WN)) Have you ever run for a political office prior to your current candidacy for council?
((Anda Banikos)) I have never before run for political office, but am a strong supporter of the democratic process and have worked for the AEC and VEC as an electoral officer. I have no political affiliations or vested business interests in our Shire. I decided to run for Council because I care about our community and environment and can see unavoidable changes and threats posed by climate change. I can also see the opportunities offered by new technologies and creative communities to make South Gippsland more resilient and productive.
- "Australia: Mat Morgan, Greens candidate in South Gippsland, talks climate, tourism, and local issues with Wikinews" — Wikinews, September 5, 2021
- "South Gippsland, Australia local council candidate Sue Plowright speaks with Wikinews about environment, education, and other local issues" — Wikinews, September 4, 2021
- Kellie Lazzaro, Nicole Asher and Amelia Bernasconi. "South Gippsland council sacked: One councillor on drugs charges, another accused of misusing position" — ABC News (Australia), June 19, 2019
- "Anda Banikos Independent" — Anda Banikos Independent, September 6, 2021 (date of access)
- "Anda Banikos - Independent" — Facebook, September 6, 2021 (date of access)