Mayor’s faction no longer biggest voting bloc

Pittwater Ward councillor Michael Gencher is no longer an independent on Northern Beaches Council and has joined the Liberal Party, making the conservatives the largest voting bloc.

Mr Gencher, who first ran for council in 2021 with the Your Northern Beaches Independent Team (YNB) – set up by former mayor Michael Regan – said he had joined the Liberals as the party’s beliefs aligned more closely with his ‘vision and values’ for the Northern Beaches community.

“I always understood that YNB was a political party – not just a group of independents coming together at election time,” Mr Gencher said in a statement.

“As time passed, I came to realise that the promise of independent politics and the hope for a different kind of political representation were not fully realised.”

Mr Gencher, who runs his own public relations firm, was critical of his former YNB colleagues, which includes Mayor Sue Heins. “I felt part of a group that lacks vision, a platform, a clear cohesive direction and a unified team,” he said.

Mr Gencher’s defection means the Liberals displace YNB as the biggest voting bloc with six votes, YNB five and the Greens two. Good for Manly and another independent each have one vote.

Wakehurst MP Mr Regan, who still sits on council, told PL that YNB ‘was not a rigid political party where you are told exactly what to think and how to vote’. “If that means we don’t have an agreed platform that Mr Gencher has stated he was looking for, then he is probably better suited back with the Liberal Party where there is that lock-step agreement and you are told how to vote.

“(YNB) will continue to operate in a way that each individual can make their own decisions based on what they see as best for the community. It’s community that has always been at the heart of who we are and why we exist,” Mr Regan added.

While Mr Gencher told PL he had never been a member of the Liberal Party, he confirmed that he had been a ‘strong supporter’ of the party for many years and worked on campaigns at all three levels of government.

“I want to make it clear that my dedication to serving the interests of the Northern Beaches community remains steadfast. This transition to the Liberal Party is not a departure from my commitment to local issues,” Mr Gencher added.

The new Liberal denied rumours that he was eyeing the mayoral position if he is re-elected to council after the local government elections in September. However, he added that he was ‘open to all possibilities’. The Liberals’ Georgia Ryburn is currently deputy mayor, with Mr Gencher launching an unsuccessful bid for the position as the YNB candidate last September.