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Ex-Property Council chief eyes city council seat

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Property Council head Nathan Paine will run to fill the Adelaide City Council central ward seat left vacant by Houssam Abiad, with promises to clean up CBD streets and curb vacancy rates key focuses of his election campaign.

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Paine, whose seven-year stint as Property Council executive director ended in 2013, told InDaily his high-profile career in the development industry put him in a “unique position” to advocate for a “better, more vibrant, greener CBD” in the lead-up to May’s vote.

The supplementary election was called last week following the resignation of central ward councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad in January, who has since relocated to Saudi Arabia.

Paine said he “started having a few conversations” with current sitting councillors and Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor last month, before deciding to run last week.

“I’ve spent so many years advocating on behalf of the city from the outside I thought it was time to put my hand up and seek to influence from the inside,” he told InDaily.

“From a residential perspective I’m going to be focussed on cleaner and safer streets – delivering better footpaths for residents, particularly down the west-end that I think have been missing out for some time.

“Also, more importantly, for the business part of the ward my focus is going to be on attracting new demand for office accommodation.

 “We’re seeing vacancy rates increase and I think there’s a need for Council to look at what incentives it can bring to the table to grow demand.”

Paine’s résumé includes policy advisor roles at Business SA, the Motor Traders Association and the SA Labor Party under former Planning and Urban Development Minister Paul Holloway.

He currently works as the director of development advisory firm Property and Consulting Australia, which is based in the city’s central ward, where he also lives.

During his tenure at the Property Council, Paine was a vocal supporter of the Adelaide Oval redevelopment, the decision to relocate the Royal Adelaide Hospital to the city’s west-end and the riverbank precinct upgrade.

He was also embroiled in controversy surrounding a tweet published by the Property Council’s then public affairs manager that labelled Adelaide a “pathetic backwater”.

I’ll be seeking to work with every member on the floor, not based on factions

Paine said he had sought legal advice to determine whether his career in the development industry could compromise his role on the council if elected, with that advice raising no issues.

He said he would continue to serve as director of Property and Consulting Australia if elected.

“I’ve received probity advice that there wouldn’t be any issues with regards to the kind of work that I do but obviously if there are any matters where conflict of interest arise then I’ll absent myself as appropriate,” he said.

One such conflict could arise from the upcoming council vote to approve development plans for the old Le Cornu site at 88 O’Connell Street.

“I’ve had a fair history with 88 O’Connell with the city council – I’ve worked as a consultant on that project,” Paine said.

“It was the right decision back in the day to step in and fix the long vacancy at that location.

“There’s many councillors who, throughout their work and their private life, have put themselves in conflict on certain decisions and I believe as long as that’s identified and appropriate steps are taken I think that shouldn’t preclude one from being involved.”

Paine also weighed in to the Adelaide Football Club’s controversial proposal to replace the ageing North Adelaide Aquatic Centre with a $65 million new sports and training facility.

“What we have, as I understand it, is an out-dated facility that needs some significant investment put into it,” he said.

“If it’s not going to be the Crows it will end up being the city council and the Adelaide City ratepayers.

“I’m not across the commercial details of what’s being proposed by the Crows, but I think we need to look after the ratepayers and the ratepayers’ dollars and ensure that the best outcome is achieved on that front.”

Whoever fills the vacant central ward seat will effectively act as powerbroker on the council – choosing to side with either of the two main voting blocs or remain independent.

If the elected member sides with Team Adelaide, the faction – comprising Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde, area councillors Arman Abrahimzadeh and Franz Knoll, north ward councillor Mary Couros and central ward councillor Simon Hou – would restore its majority voting power following Abiad’s resignation.

What I’ll be seeking to bring is a balanced voice that can assist in delivering real change across the council chamber

If the elected member sides with the other unnamed voting bloc – comprising north ward councillor Phil Martin, area councillors Anne Moran and Robert Simms, and south ward councillor Helen Donovan – there would be a deadlock between the two factions.

The member could also join central ward councillor Jessy Khera as an independent.

Paine told InDaily he wasn’t daunted by the highly-factionalised environment at Town Hall and would “work with every member on the floor, not based on factions”.

“I think a lot can be made of factions overall,” he said.

“I think that what I’ll be seeking to bring is a balanced voice that can assist in delivering real change across the council chamber.”

Asked if that meant that he would be an independent councillor aligned with neither faction, Paine responded: “I think it’s fair to say I’m pretty progressive in the policies that I’ve been promoting over the years.

“I suspect I’m probably one of the more open books when it comes to my views on the city and my views on how the city can enhance the lives of people that both live, work and play in the city and I’ll be seeking to work with all councillors if I’m lucky enough to get elected.”

Paine also insisted his influence on the council wouldn’t be limited to development matters.

“I’ve released a number of manifestos from my time on the Property Council but I’m also a small business owner, so I understand the issues that create and grate on the minds and operations of businesses in the city,” he said.

“Being the central ward, that’s one of the primary things that I want to be focusing on if elected.”

Other confirmed candidates to put their names forward for the central ward supplementary election include former Deputy Lord Mayor and Lord Mayoral candidate Mark Hamilton and Greens MLC Tammy Franks’ advisor Malwina Wyra.

Nominations open on March 26, before the close of voting on May 11.

An Electoral Commission timetable for the central ward supplementary election. Image: ECSA

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