Australia: Mat Morgan, Greens candidate in South Gippsland, talks climate, tourism, and local issues with Wikinews

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Mat Morgan, Greens candidate for Coastal-Promontory ward.
Image: Australian Greens.

Since June 2019, the people of South Gippsland Shire, located at the southernmost tip of Australia, have been without a local council, after a state government inquiry found "high levels of tension" within the council. Administrators were appointed by the Victorian state government in July 2019, who have governed the shire since then. However, South Gippsland's council is scheduled to be restored with an election to be held via post from October 5-22, 2021.

Wikinews interviewed one of the candidates standing in this election, Mat Morgan. He is running as a candidate in the Coastal-Promontory Ward, and is endorsed by the Australian Greens. The Coastal-Promontory ward covers towns such as Venus Bay, Waratah Bay, Yanakie, Foster, Port Welshpool, and Toora, and elects three councillors to the South Gippsland Shire Council.


 ((WN )) What do you hope to achieve as a councillor?

 ((Mat Morgan )) As a South Gippsland Shire councillor, my priorities will be:

1) Declare a climate emergency and forming a community-led climate action plan to address climate change, reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy.
2) Deliver the quality services that care for our community's health and wellbeing, while rebuilding small businesses and supporting local arts and tourism.
3) Protect our natural environment.
4) Address gendered violence along with all forms of discrimination and promote respect and equality for all.

 ((WN )) Do you think the two-year period that South Gippsland Shire has been governed by administrators since the 2019 sacking has been too long, and why/why not?

 ((Mat Morgan )) The two years without a democratically elected body has been far from ideal as were the operations of the dismissed council. I think South Gippsland is more than ready for a fresh start and to have some new faces sitting at the table.

 ((WN )) Wilsons Promontory National Park, which takes up the majority of Coastal-Promontory ward's land area, attracts a significant amount of tourists on a yearly basis. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the current lockdown, there has been a large impact on local businesses. What do you think needs to be done to help business recovery?

Squeaky Beach, located in Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Image: Dietmar Rabich.

 ((Mat Morgan )) Businesses in the tourism sector have suffered inevitably and continue to in times of COVID. What we need to ensure; is that when we do open up again, we do it better than ever. We need more camping spots to bring people here, and we need more things to see and do, in order to keep them in this beautiful part of the world. Let's put live music back in our cafes and bars, let's bring more attention to our incredible food and wine, there's so much to do including protecting the Prom from ecological decline.

 ((WN )) What changes and reforms would you like to see in regards to environmental protection?

 ((Mat Morgan )) I'd like to see a climate emergency declaration and subsequent action plan. This has been achieved with overwhelming support by our neighbours in Bass Coast, and can be tailored to the needs of South Gippsland. ACF's Prom Area Climate Action and their sister group Just Transition have already drafted a plan and are looking for some genuine leadership on grass roots climate action. I can bring that leadership, not just write about climate action on my advertising material.

 ((WN )) What do you think qualifies you to be a local councillor?

 ((Mat Morgan )) Our council should be representative of South Gippsland's residents. I don’t know when the last time someone my age had a seat at this table, but I can promise you that a certain age and wealth bracket has been over represented for a long time, I live and work in this community, I study politics and philosophy and I want to represent the people of my ward, not vested interests.

 ((WN )) In your local community, are there any specific projects you'd like to highlight and advocate for?

Welcome sign outside Fish Creek.
Image: Dietmar Rabich.

 ((Mat Morgan )) There are many fantastic initiatives already, from the Fish Creek composter, to our 24/7 library in Foster. I'd like to advocate for more accessibility, from more footpaths and bike trails, to sealing Mt Best Road and others. I'd also like to advocate for more shelter belts and wildlife corridors away from roads; this will reduce the animal population density on the side of our rural highways.

 ((WN )) During the COVID-19 lockdown, how have you reached out to local voters?

 ((Mat Morgan )) I'm lucky to have been working as a barista in Foster and we have managed to stay open through most of these lockdowns. So I have been enjoying hearing what people are looking forward to from their newly elected council reps. For those who don't drink coffee, I am posting every day on my Facebook page which can be found at: @MatMorganGreens.

 ((WN )) Why did you choose to run as a Greens candidate for local council?

 ((Mat Morgan )) I am endorsed by the Greens and generally support their policies, though there are no specific local council Greens policies. They are helping me fundraise and run my campaign as I don't have endless financial resources like some other councillors (unfortunately). Also, many council candidates are often endorsed by political parties though choose not to disclose it. I believe in bringing transparency to this council and so I'm freely disclosing my affiliation.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.