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Mayor behind Liberal Councillor’s dumping

Sep 5, 2023

The NSW Division of the Liberal Party has handed long time Hawkesbury Councillor Nathan Zamprogno a three-year suspension from the party, amidst growing tension in the council. 

The reason he was suspended included complaints that he would not support Liberal backed motions in favour of developers, land clearing or infrastructure that affected heritage sites – and that he did not vote for Labor’s Barry Calvert for deputy mayor.

The motion to remove Cr Zamprogno from the Liberal Party was championed by Hawkesbury Mayor Sarah McMahon, and her predecessor, Cr Patrick Conolly, according to internal Liberal Party documents. The complaint cited his refusal to align with pro-development and land-clearing agendas as reasons for his expulsion. Cr Zamprogno is now expected to run against McMahon at next week’s mid-term mayoral elections.

Cr Zamprogno had been a member of the Liberal Party for 32 years before Mayor Sarah McMahon moved to dump him.

In a strongly worded media statement released today, Cr Zamprogno expressed his deep concern over the grounds on which he was ousted. He said he was troubled that the evidence tendered by Cr McMahon “as justifications for my expulsion from the Party included statements I have made in the Chamber and elsewhere about planning matters before Council, where Councillors should enjoy a free vote to judge matters on their merits, without threat of punishment.”

“This includes the Seniors Living Development in Vincents Road at Kurrajong [Tallowood], a Planning Proposal brought to the chamber by Matthew Bennett and his family. Clr McMahon had already declared a significant pecuniary interest in that matter, and two other Liberals recused themselves,” Cr Zamprogno said.

“Where I dissented from my Liberal colleagues in the Council Chamber, it has always been in the defence of sound Liberal principles. When three out of the four Liberals voted to see the Wilcox house and farm demolished as part of the Grose River Bridge project, I was prepared to defend that family’s property rights.” 

“I was the only Liberal opposed to the adoption of the disastrous Rural Boundary Clearing Code. I believed that being a good Conservative is entirely compatible with being a good Conservationist, and that we should look after the environment. There is now evidence that Developers are indeed now using the Code to clear-fell lands for reasons other than management of bushfire risk, placing Koala habitats at risk.”

“I was the only Liberal to defend the retention of Council’s Heritage Committee, and the others were hell-bent on dissolving it. I believed a majority of voters, including Liberals, agreed with me about the importance of our local heritage,” he said.

On August 25, Cr Zamprogno faced a Liberal Party committee headed by Jason Falinski, the Liberal Party President who lost the once safe Liberal Federal seat of Mackellar in the 2022 election to independent Sophie Scamps. During the committee meeting, Cr Zamprogno vehemently contested McMahon and Conolly’s assertions, labeling them as false claims in their bid to remove him from the party. Lawyers who have sighted the complaint and a letter from Kurrajong, Liberal President Reg Court said that many of the claims made against Cr Zamprogno are potentially defamatory.

The latest fracture in the HCC comes after revelations yesterday that the local branch of the Australian Labor Party voted to recommend its two councillors, deputy mayor Barry Calvert and Amanda Kotlash, withhold any support for Cr McMahon for Mayor in next week’s election. It remains unclear whether either will stand for the position which Cr Calvert has previously held.

“It’s alleged that following the 2021 local government elections you participated in a meeting of the Liberal group of Councillors for Hawkesbury City Council at which resolutions were carried to select candidates for Mayor and Deputy-Mayor,” the letter of complaint to Cr Zamprogno, from NSW Liberal Party State Director said. 

“Notwithstanding your presence at the meeting, and awareness of the decision of the Liberal group of Councillors ( which is binding on you as a Member under the Code) , you nominated against the agreed candidate for Deputy Mayor [ALP Cr Barry Clavert]. This constitutes a breach of your obligations under the Code.”

Cr Zamprogno said that “sadly a lack of leadership has created a toxic tone in our Chamber and in the Macquarie electorate Liberal branches.”

He noted that three other Liberal Councillors have also been pushed out of their positions in the Blue Mountains as part of factional ructions. The Liberal Party was unable to man all its booths in the March 2023 State election for the first time.

“It seems clear that Clr McMahon’s motivation was in part to pre-emptively assassinate a rival,” Cr Zamprogno said.

Cr McMahon is the Liberal Party’s twice failed candidate for the federal seat of Macquarie. At the last election Macquarie went from the most marginal seat in the country to a safe Labor seat. The swing of 7.58% to Labor in Macquarie was double the national swing against the Liberals, and the worst swing in any must-win marginal seat in NSW. 

Cr McMahon has refused to answer any questions from the Hawkesbury Post.

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