Upper Hunter by-election: Muswellbrook councillor Steve Reynolds to run as independent

LOCAL VOICE: Mr Reynolds lives in Muswellbrook with his wife and three children, and was elected to council in 2016. Photo: Supplied
LOCAL VOICE: Mr Reynolds lives in Muswellbrook with his wife and three children, and was elected to council in 2016. Photo: Supplied

MUSWELLBROOK born-and-bred local Steve Reynolds believes the upcoming Upper Hunter by-election is the perfect opportunity for the electorate to have a strong voice so they can finally reap what they sow.

The 39-year-old Muswellbrook Shire councillor and father-of-three has thrown his hat in the ring as an independent, and said he's "in it to win it" and "not scared to stand up for what he believes in".

Well known for his involvement in local sport, Mr Reynolds lives in Muswellbrook with his wife and three children, and was elected to council in 2016.

Growing up, his mum owned a cafe, and his dad worked in the coal industry. He is a former coal miner himself, and both his brothers currently work in the mining industry.

After nine years in mining, he suffered a permanent spinal injury which left him unable to return to work. He had previously worked with a number of not-for-profits, then spent five years in real estate.

He said he never anticipated a career in politics but felt the time was right given the sudden by-election for the marginal seat.

"With the seat becoming available and with it being a swing seat, it's the perfect opportunity for our community to have a local voice," he said.

"For not just the major towns, being Muswellbrook and Singleton, but someone that has the capacity and ability to talk to everyone from a cleaner to a CEO and know how to handle those conversations.

"It's a great opportunity for us to get some of the coal royalties back that have left our area."

On landuse conflicts he said there needed to be black and white lines drawn that designate which area is mining and which is agriculture "instead of having grey areas and constant speculation about people's futures".

"The state government hasn't done that and it needs to be done," he said.

On the topic of energy, he said he did not feel there needed to be so much talk about "transition", but more about education.

"My stance is if you say you're pro-mining and you're for renewables, people only hear those first few words," he said.

"The majority of people in the mining industry are for the renewables, but in time, let's not rush the carriage.

"The mining industry is here right now, let's support it, but there is going to be a period down the track where there are going to be new technologies come into play.

The mining industry is here right now, let's support it, but there is going to be a period down the track where there are going to be new technologies come into play.

"It's not so much talking about transition, it's about education, and what's available in our area. We've got the Newcastle university campus here, the TAFE campus which has just been sold in Scone. We need to focus on what's available education wise, and for people not to leave our area to try to ascertain training but to be able to do it in their own backyard."

Mr Reynolds said he would like to see the region become an "education centre" and he firmly believed the money from the NSW government's sale of the Scone TAFE campus needed to stay in Scone and go into education.

"I was rather concerned when I heard about it - $4 million for that property, that's too cheap, really cheap," he said.

"If it's not going into building another TAFE campus, which they should, they need to build an education centre so these farmers can get the chainsaw skills, tractor skills."

Other major issues facing the electorate he wants to focus on are casualisation of the workforce, the lack of retail and community services and bringing in new manufacturing and industry.

He also wants to bring the medicinal marijuana debate back to the table and believes it can have huge benefits for those struggling through chronic pain, although declared he does not use it himself.

He is currently deciding who he will give his preferences to and urged the electorate not to pass up the opportunity to make their vote count.

"I'm not doing it for the notoriety of the position, I'm not doing to it because there is any benefit to me or I'm trying to swing it so that someone else wins the election, I'm in it for the race," he said.

"Have a real good hard look at what is on the line here. We have a real opportunity for our region to be the seat that has the most power in the state."

This story Muswellbrook's Steve Reynolds 'in it to win it' first appeared on The Singleton Argus.