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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Anne Davies

Northern beaches seat of Wakehurst falls to independent, but Liberals hold on in Manly and Lane Cove

The independent Northern Beaches mayor Michael Regan
The independent Northern Beaches mayor Michael Regan has been elected state member for Wakehurst at the 2023 NSW election. Photograph: Anne Davies/The Guardian

The independent mayor of Northern Beaches council, Michael Regan, has romped to victory in the New South Wales state seat of Wakehurst, snatching the previously blue-ribbon Liberal seat held by the retiring health minister, Brad Hazzard, with a 27.5% swing.

Regan won with a decisive 56% of the two-party preferred vote, ending decades of Liberal dominance in the region.

The win means that independents now represent the northern beaches at federal, state and local level.

The strong showing by independents on the northern beaches will raise questions for the Liberal party, which selected candidates late and chose men who had worked for the party.

The independents also have proved that community-based campaigns with strong local candidates with deep roots in the community can succeed against better-funded major parties.

In Pittwater, at the tip of the northern beaches peninsula, the independent Jacqui Scruby was marginally behind the Liberal candidate, Rory Amon, 53% to 47%. The count is likely to come down to postal votes.

The seats overlap with the federal seats of Warringah, held by the independent Zali Steggall and Mackellar, won by the independent Sophie Scamps in 2022. Their wins have previously been dismissed as due to strong views in the electorates about Tony Abbott, the former member for Warringah, and the former prime minister Scott Morrison.

Federal MP for Mackellar Sophie Scamps with supporters of Michael Regan
Federal MP for Mackellar Sophie Scamps with supporters of Michael Regan, the new independent state MP for Wakehurst. Photograph: Anne Davies/The Guardian

In the south-west Sydney seat of Wollondilly, the former deputy mayor Judy Hannan was ahead 50.8% to Liberal Nat Smith’s 49.2 %. A lack of infrastructure in the rapidly developing region was one of the leading issues as well as lingering discontent about the Liberal party’s decision to parachute Smith into the seat in 2019.

The independent in Willoughby, Larissa Penn, was neck and neck with the Liberal MP Tim James. Penn ran in the byelection in 2022, when Gladys Berejiklian resigned, and almost won the seat.

If she wins this time around, it will demonstrate that independents can succeed – but it may take more than one run. The ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, said he expected her wafer-thin lead to whittle away when postal votes were counted.

The Climate 200-backed candidates in North Shore, Lane Cove and Manly appeared to have failed in their bid to take other north shore seats from sitting Liberals.

The North Shore independent candidate Helen Conway achieved a 5.5% swing but with 55% of the vote counted the Liberals’ Felicity Wilson was ahead 55.6% to 44.4%.

In Manly, the sitting Liberal, James Griffin, retained his seat 54%-46% but the independent Joeline Hackman achieved a 10% swing, which could make the seat vulnerable next time around.

Manly has elected independents in the past.

In Lane Cove, the independent candidate Victoria Davidson came third, with her preferences helping the ALP to achieve a 5.5% swing. The outgoing Liberal planning minister, Anthony Roberts, will retain the seat with a healthy margin.

Regan said he would go to Macquarie Street to push for gambling reform, integrity in politics and rebates for solar panels, as well as issues that were close to the hearts of his constituents on the northern beaches: roads, buses and the mental health services at Northern Beaches hospital.

“We can work with the government to improve their policies. It is in Labor’s interest to keep us there, so they need to work with us,” he told the Guardian.

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