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Hastings First - Your Voice | Your Community | Your Future

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

Five independent candidates have joined forces to run on a combined ticket for the upcoming Port Macquarie Hastings Council elections which have been rescheduled to the 4th of December due to the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team, called HASTINGS FIRST is focused on the concerns of our community at the grassroots level. The team wants to provide the community with a strong, informed voice in Council on matters concerning its future. HASTINGS FIRST is a team with integrity at its core and is prepared to work with fellow councillors to achieve the best outcomes for the community.

Between them, the five candidates bring a wealth of local knowledge and experience coupled with professional expertise in key areas.

The candidates are:

(see photo from left to right)

Hastings First - Nik James Lipovac with Kerry Fox, Linda Lenord, Michael Clarke and Justin Hardie.
HASTINGS FIRST - Left to Right: Justin Hardie, Kerry Fox, Nik James Lipovac, Linda Lenord, and Michael Clarke

We spent some time chatting to two of the team, Nik and Michael, who outlined both their individual and team aims and objectives for the future of our LGA.

Connected Community

They both agree that the Hastings LGA is large and diverse with both urban and rural components and that we all are living through uncertain and constantly changing times. When natural disasters such as bushfires and floods affect our community, coupled with the ongoing impact of a global pandemic, it is the local council which is at the coal face of both immediate and ongoing community concerns and needs.

HASTINGS FIRST believes it has the experience and commitment to help make informed decisions to facilitate the needs of our community both now and moving forward. Additionally, it is confident and possesses the skills and experience to make responsive and strategic decisions to address current and future concerns and needs of the community throughout the whole area. To this end HASTINGS FIRST will develop economic hubs to leverage community skills and create employment opportunities across the LGA.

They aim to facilitate a more connected community and shared workspace with improvement of traffic bottlenecks through improved infrastructure, and will develop a post- COVID tourist plan and encourage more people to discover the hinterland.

Team HASTINGS FIRST aim to work with Council to understand the priorities and plans to fix urgent infrastructure requirements following the fires, floods and COVID and communicate this to the community.

Also, high on the priority list is community mental health and safety - the team say these are vital issues during this stressful period and HASTINGS FIRST will listen to the concerns of local grassroots groups within the community and work with state/federal authorities to set up local “health hubs” to provide support on the ground in various locales.

Social housing projects are always a priority, but with loss of jobs/businesses as a result of COVID as well as the impact of bushfires and floods and population growth, HASTINGS FIRST wants to work with state and federal authorities to fast track both improvements to and expansion of social housing in the area.

Meet Nik James Lipovac...

Nik, Niko as we know him :)

A familiar voice and face to many, HASTINGS FIRST team member and Mayoral candidate Nik James Lipovac is excited and very enthusiastic about the local area and the upcoming local government elections. So much so that he formed HASTINGS FIRST to enter into the electoral race.

Nik, aka Niko, came to the Hastings region back in 2003, taking on a role at the local radio station called 2MC, now named Triple M. Of Croatian and Greek heritage, Nick considered his last name, Lipovac, a bit of a mouthful for radio and thus decided to simplify it to Nik James and then Niko, which is perfectly suited for radio.

When it comes to the ballot paper though, to vote for Niko you have to tick the box alongside Lipovac!

We asked him why? Why run for Council and indeed go that step further and put his hand up for Mayor? His response was simple: why not?

He acknowledged current Mayor Peta Pinson has been very popular in the last few years, but added he has been made aware of a number of people who aren’t her greatest fans and who don't necessarily like her or the way she approaches things in Council Chambers.

Nik also wants to let people know that he is deadly serious about what he is doing. He wants to run this region effectively. We are all aware there's been a lot of infighting over the last couple of years in the Council Chambers, and Nik believes that his past experience running smaller committees in the community will hold him in good stead to move forward effectively. He wants to be on Council, but asks why not also take the step up and run for Mayor as well?

Stating that Port Macquarie Hastings Council is just another committee, albeit on a larger scale, he wants to be a part of the group and if the people of our Greater Port Macquarie Hastings Council see it so, then he wants lead the committee.

Rolling up his sleeves

One obvious challenge for Nik is having people take him seriously. His long radio career has positioned him very much as a jovial larrikin and is this the sort of persona suitable for local politics? We asked him flat-out, can he be taken seriously?

Nik very much acknowleged this as a challenge, if not necessarily a concern. He admits that he can be a little exuberant, having been known locally for the past 18-years or so as Nick the Promo Dude, Niko the funny radio guy and so forth. However, much of this persona was crafted purposefully, exaggerated almost – radio is entertainment and he was a host, hence his personality needed to be jovial, fun. But behind this lies very much a serious side.

“I absolutely needed a serious side in order to get so many things done over the years,” said Nik. “It’s not all fun, games and jokes – when things need to be addressed and get done with purpose I have no hesitation at all.

“When things need to get done, be it on a committee or in the workplace, I have a very no nonsense philosophy: let’s work together and fix this, let’s get it moving, let’s get it done,” he adds.

It is evident that he is a natural leader, something he has displayed consistently over the years in both his work and personal life as he has lead many fundraisers for local charities and causes while being at the forefront of many local sporting committees. He can be serious when required, lead when it is needed, but be a team player as well. So don’t be fooled by the persona that you may have seen in the past - inside Nik is a leader that is willing to roll his sleeves up and help the Hastings community move forward and prosper.

Long term vision

Nik’s decision to run for office wasn’t knee-jerk or made on a whim. Back in 2017, when he was working with the Mayors Sporting Fund, meeting at the Council Chambers regularly, he had an ear to the ground and wasn’t happy about several situations and issues and how certain things were developing out in the community. “I therefore decided to put my hand up at the next local government election and step forward,” he said. “I could see where the issues were and that change was needed and so stepped forward to act.”

He believes that now is a good time to get amongst it as the Council needs a changeover of members in the Councillors particularly. Now is this time for him to get in and have a go and freshen up the Council with some new blood and get the Councillors working together for the benefit of all the community.

Make no bones about it, Nik is in this for the long haul. At 51, he is just building his first house, which he is about to move into. He has no plans of leaving the area and, as such, no desire to run for a one off term as a Councillor.

If elected, he sees himself involved for at least the next 10 years. A big advoctae of new ideas and fresh opinions, he wants to contribute positively to ensure the community moves forward and the Council continually do their very best for the local area.

He clearly feels a strong affinity to the area and local community – it is clear he cares passionately. “I’ve been here for 18 years, raised my family here,” Nik comments. “I want the future to be bright for the area. I want it to develop and grow while finding the right balance and not overdeveloping things,” he adds, conscious that many people are and will be moving to the area.

What Hastings First stands for

Planning is key

Nik acknowledges that over development is a precarious topic that can be challenging to find a balance with and is something that needs to be discussed at length. He is fully aware that a significant number of people have moved to our region in the last couple of years, something that increased furthermore with the onset of COVID-19. The housing boom continues and Nik knows full well that robust infrastructure is needed to ensure everything runs smoothly. Maintaining our pristine beaches and hinterlands is imperative, as is planning towards areas such as roads, traffic congestion, homes, schools, and hospitals. “Planning needs to be put in place now to ensure a prosperous and effective community as a whole,” Nik says.

HASTINGS FIRST are a team that are all on the same page, that work together and show each other respect. Whilst they may not agree on all things, they listen to each other in the decision making process, and once a majority decision is made all support that to reach an effective solution. It’s a matter of people getting together and making sure they have the best interests at the forefront for the Hastings region.

A part of the Group Ticket, HASTINGS FIRST Nik hopes that most of his members on the group ticket will be there after Election Day as well. Consisting of five members including himself, Carrie Fox, Michael Clarke, Justin Hardy and Linda Londard, Nik told us that his team are committed to bringing all their individual skills and talents to the table to prioritise Port Macquarie HASTINGS and ensure no one is left behind.

Meet Michael Clarke...

Trust. Such a small word yet one carries such significant meaning. For Michael Clarke it is key. Believing that many in the community have lost trust in the Government at all levels, be it Local, State or Federal, Michael identifies the need for trust to be re-established and reinstalled in order to build integrity.

“People in government need to be someone that can be relied upon,” he says. “This can often be a challenge at State and Federal level, but it is something that can be managed much more effectively at a Local Government level because communities are often close-knit affairs and people within those communities know you a lot better.”

For Michael, regaining the trust of the local community is the first, critical step. “Once you have achieved that then the people will allow you to do your job,” he says. “They will listen to you and know that they can rely on you to focus on issues that matter to them.”

Having a standing in the local community for over 30 years, with both personal and business connections, Michael says the first thing that people who know him would say about him is that he is both reliable and trustworthy.


He wants the individual Councillor to be accountable as well as the group. He wants to get back to the position of making sure that portfolios are allocated to the Councillors, believing that allows them responsibility to enable them to take control and then report back to the Mayor, something that has been lost in recent years.

Being accountable for their own actions, of course, in alignment with the long term strategic plan of the council, is the way Michael would like to see Port Macquarie Hastings Councillors move forward.

An accountant and financial advisor himself, Michael believes he can bring his wealth of knowledge to help the region in many aspects. “Understanding finances is not about just looking at the figures - you need to look behind and beyond that,” he says.

When looking at balance sheets and trading statements from an operation, he says you need to be able to understand what's happened in terms of trends over the last few years, and where they're heading in the future as well. “Those figures tell you a story.”

Transferring this experience to the dynamics of the Council is where Michael can shine, he says. “If things are a little off point in regards to, for example, too much money being spent in certain areas, or if there is perhaps a deterioration in expense ratios, I can detect this then give feedback to the Councillors themselves, to enable them to discuss and analyse the issues.”

Key issues and a long-term vision

Infrastructure is absolutely key, according to Michael. It is something that has to be done and managed correctly because, although we have population growth, it is not sustainable without proper infrastructure. The Mid North Coast area has some great facilities already in place which has attracted people to move here, but that needs to be managed and that growth needs to be managed.

“Even though some short term projects at the moment aren't getting done, they can be addressed and can be fixed. It's just a matter of bringing the people together to be able to do that,” he says.

He told us that it is especially important that projects are analysed and assessed in the correct manner. “What's the cost analysis on this? Is it going to be beneficial to the community relevant to this project, which is a hard one because everybody thinks their projects worth is better than the other.

“You have to be diplomatic and also run in alignment with the strategic plan of the Council, which has priorities in place,” he adds. Michael would like to ensure that issues are simply articulated when speaking to the community and that they know exactly and clearly what and how projects will be done. They need to know that certain Government bodies other than Council do need to be involved in some projects.

He is concerned about the cost of housing rising in relation to not only debt for people, but also the availability of housing for people that have to rent. Because as those property prices push up, then the rentals rise, which pushes people into homelessness. And this really needs to be addressed at all levels of government.

“There has to be a solution and it needs to be found,” he says. “It is not an easy one that will be solved overnight but it is something that is at the forefront of my thinking. I do have some thoughts that I will bring to Council if elected.”

Why vote for Michael?

He told us you will get someone that is deliberate in their thinking, that will weigh up both pros and cons in all projects and in all issues that are put before him. That's the way he operates, he says.

As a resident in the local area for 40 years, Michael spent two stints on the board of the Hastings Business Enterprise Centre concentrating on small business startups and obtaining funding for existing businesses. An avid sportsman, he has been President of the Wauchope Soccer Club and coached a successful women’s soccer team in 2017.

A caring man and avid fundraiser, he has donated three oxygen machines to Wauchope Palliative Care, which were his deceased wife’s machines and has also donated bone marrow to save the life of a US citizen. Care in the community has always been fundamental, a trait Michael has in spades.

Meet the team

Nik James Lipovac

A Port Macquarie resident for 18 years, Nik is well known as the Radio 531 sales manager and announcer. He has been heavily involved in the community through his work in the media, including over a decade at 2MC-FM (now Triple M) and in his community engagement role at Holiday Coast Credit Union. Nik co-ordinated the first ten years of fundraising for the Annual GIVE ME 5 FOR KIDS Campaign, which assisted the Port and Wauchope Hospitals to purchase paediatric equipment.

Nik has volunteered his time on the Mayor’s Sporting Fund committee and with Hastings Cricket in various capacities including president, secretary and coach. Most recently he has been on the Oxley Oval Clubhouse Construction Committee.

Nik was named 2019 Hastings Sporting Volunteer of the Year and won Greater Port Macquarie Business Awards in 2018 and 2019 with Radio 531. He is also a finalist in the Outstanding Employee category this year.

The Hastings community will benefit from Nik’s networking abilities developed through his media profile at 2MC-FM and Radio 531, as well as his links to business, community and sporting organisations. His ongoing involvement in local events and activities and his ability to relate to and communicate with people from all walks of life give him insight into community needs at a grass roots level.

Kerry Fox

Kerry works for a large multinational IT company and has more than 30 years business experience under her belt. She has lived and worked all over the world and therefore experienced many different cultures and communities and the changes they have faced. Kerry has lived on the north side of Port Macquarie for the last six years. She is passionate about the local community and was recently elected president of the Northside Progress Association. Kerry also ran in the 2015 State Election as an Independent for the seat of Epping.

Kerry said she has been inspired to run for Council with HASTINGS FIRST after experiencing first hand ineffective council decision making, inappropriate council spending, failure of councillors to listen to community and her desire to leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children.

The Hastings community will benefit from Kerry’s many years of leadership experience in strategy and innovation across all facets of business. She has passion, energy and a focus on fairness and justice for the community, ensuring the right decisions and outcomes are achieved for all and believes if you want things to change, you need to be part of that change.

Linda Lenord

Linda has lived in the Hastings area for over 30 years and is keenly aware of the rapid change occurring within the area. She believes we need to maintain all that is great about the Hastings for the benefit of all who call the area home, while creating a future that capitalizes on the area’s potential and opportunities presented.

Linda has worked in the education sector for 33 years, including working with young people with disabilities and mental health needs, and has a passion for working with young people. Her passion for strong effective leadership teams led her to form her own business working with organisations creating teams from a strengths-based perspective.

The Hastings community will benefit from Linda’s background in the education sector with a focus on young people and their link to the future of our region. Linda has her own business which focuses on helping organisations build strong, effective leadership teams from a strengths-based perspective. Linda is a long-time resident who loves working with people and finding future focused positive outcomes. She believes in maintaining all that is great about our area while creating a future that maximizes on all the opportunities it offers.

Michael Clarke

Michael has lived in the Hastings area since 1990 and is based in Wauchope. He has spent 42 years working in the finance sector with skills in the areas of training, risk assessment, business planning and business and retail banking. He has worked closely with personal and business clients across multiple industries. In 2006 Michael was an Australian finalist in the commercial loan writing industry swards through MFAA and was a part of the 2014 NSW finalists for the small business ‘Ethics in Business Awards’.

On a personal level, in 2006 Michael donated bone marrow to save the life of an American citizen. He is also deeply involved with the local community. He was President of the Wauchope Soccer Club in 2017 and is involved with ongoing sponsorship and the donation in 2018 of three oxygen machines to Wauchope Palliative Care.

The Hastings community will benefit from Michael’s 42 years of experience working in the finance sector. He is relationship driven and brings strong analytical and risk assessment skills with an existing connection to the business community via his banking and finance experience. His listening skills enable him to understand needs and find solutions for critical issues confronting clients. He also has a background of involvement with community organisations and has been involved in fundraising and sponsorship. He is passionate about a continual push for a cohesive, fair, just and socially inclusive community.

Justin Hardie

Justin believes the HASTINGS FIRST team can contribute to positive outcomes to the long- term planning of our community. He is a listener and problem solver who wants to see planned, high quality infrastructure built to further support the connection and growth of the Hastings region, balanced with the preservation of the great amenities and lifestyle our community enjoys. He brings a wide level of experience from his involvement in large infrastructure programs to ensure efficient delivery of community projects.

His experience comes from 20 years working in investment and delivery of renewable energy, rail and road infrastructure. Justin is a family man with young children just starting school. The availability of services for our children, their safety and future opportunities is a priority for him. Justin believes Council should represent the needs of the whole community and not prioritise the privileged few.

The Hastings community will benefit from Justin’s experience working in the area of investment in, and delivery of renewable energy, rail and road infrastructure. He is a problem solver and believes Council should represent the needs of the whole community, not just prioritise the privileged few. His wide range of experience in large infrastructure programmes will ensure efficient delivery of community projects, while still retaining the special qualities of our area. With a young family, he wants to ensure our community provides services and opportunities for our children.

The HASTINGS FIRST team believe councillors are no longer listening to ratepayers and have lost touch. An example of this is Council’s recent majority vote in favour of a rate rise, despite the fact residents and businesses have suffered, and many continue to suffer substantial financial losses due to COVID-19, bushfires and floods. They also highlight the lack of focus on dealing with community issues as a priority, citing infighting amongst councillors as detrimental to the whole community.

For further information about HASTINGS FIRST contact

Nik James Lipovac on 0402 988 075


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