Award-winning filmmaker James Ricketson is running for Council election in Pittwater.

The documentary filmmaker and founding member of the Australian Directors Guild has lived on the Northern Beaches, and in the Pittwater area specifically, for over 50 years.

In 2017, Mr Ricketson was imprisoned for over a year in Cambodia after being accused of espionage for filming an opposition rally with a drone. The ordeal was chronicled by the ABC’s Australian Story in 2018.

Mr Ricketson says his experience in a Cambodian gaol was a result of his willingness to ‘speak truth to power’ which is an attribute he says he wants to bring to Council.

“I’m a great believer in transparency. I think there are very few occasions when the Council needs to be secretive about anything but what I’ve discovered is that it was impossible to get straight answers from the Council.

“I became interested about the fish and chip shop [at Palm Beach]. I had no idea what I thought one way or the other about the development, I didn’t really know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. I wanted to see diagrams, I wanted to know when the development application was made.

“I have requested of the Council on many occasions that there be a public meeting to discuss this issue and other issues but they had a private meeting with a closed group of local residents. Why are they having a private meeting?

“I discovered that no minutes were taken at the meeting and I was told if an organisation outside of the Council requests a meeting, they are under no obligation to take minutes. Ray Brownlee [Northern Beaches Council CEO] said that if I want to get information about what was discussed at that meeting, I can make a GIPA [freedom of information] application.

“If you’ve ever been down that path, you know that they can delay, delay, delay. In another area of government, I’m waiting three years now for a freedom of information request to be processed.

“Some of the people that I’ve been working with say, ‘James, why do you keep on about the fish and chip shop? It’s already been knocked down’ but I think that there should have been proper public discussion about the whole development proposal.

“I didn’t hear about it until after the consultation period had finished. That’s happened three times in the last six months that a development proposal has been made and I’ve heard about it after the consultation period has finished. Most people don’t hear about it until after.

“In terms of Council, I want everything to be transparent and aboveboard, to keep people informed. Not everyone’s going to be happy but they’re going to be much happier if they’ve at least had an opportunity to have their say,” said Mr Ricketson.

James Ricketson

Mr Ricketson said that the failure to get satisfactory answers to what he felt were reasonable questions made him decide to stand for Council election.

“We now live in an era where bureaucrats and politicians by and large don’t answer questions. Everybody is sick of politicians who continue to treat voters and taxpayers as if we’re stupid. I’ve got myself into a lot of trouble by insisting on transparency.

“I’m 72 years old, I’ve lived in the area 50 years, I’d like to at least have an opportunity to maybe shift the culture a little bit in the direction of transparency and accountability,” said Mr Ricketson.

The Local Government election is being held on Saturday, 04 December. Applications for postal voting are now open and pre-poll voting begins next Monday, 22 November.

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate

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