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HomeNewsPower shift in Council chambers as Gencher defects

Power shift in Council chambers as Gencher defects

Pittwater Ward Councillor Michael Gencher has defected from the Your Northern Beaches Independent Team (YNIBT) to the Liberal Party, forcing the pendulum of power on Northern Beaches Council to swing to the right, away from the party that has dominated since amalgamation in 2016.

The Northern Beaches Liberals now have the lion’s share of councillors  – six – while YNBIT, the previous majority party, has dropped to five. The latter currently has councillors representing four of the Northern Beaches’ wards, whereas the Liberals have councillors across all five regions.

Cr Michael Gencher

Cr Gencher would be a strong asset to the Liberal Party heading into the Local Government Elections in September. The Canadian Australian and father of five has community standing with leadership roles at Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club, runs his own public relations agency, and lives in the area. He is also the acting CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies.

The switch to the Liberals in the last seven months of office was a surprise to many – but not all. He is a lapsed Liberal member as a former registered lobbyist for the party.

Manly Observer spoke to Mayor Sue Heins, YNBIT councillor in Curl Curl ward, who was very measured in her response.

Was Michael Gencher jumping ship to the Liberals something that appeared likely for a while, or a sudden shift of allegiance that surprised YNBIT?

“I think it came as a surprise to some than others in our team,” she replied, adding, “We wish Michael Gencher the best in his future direction back with the Liberal Party.”

Michael Gencher’s profile as Pittwater Councillor on YNBIT’s webpage.

Council cohesion

The YNB team has held the majority seats on Northern Beaches Council since the amalgamation of Pittwater, Warringah and Manly Councils in May 2016.

With Cr Gencher’s defection to the Liberals, might this affect future voting on key issues?

“The YNBIT councillors aligned on the majority of key issues (as our past discussions and voting have reflected), and if we had a different view, then that was fine too,” Cr Heins insisted. “Personally I don’t think it will make much of a difference.

“Remember, it takes eight votes to get something passed at Council, so even when we had the majority, we still all had to work collectively with others who shared the same view.”

“Remember, it takes eight votes to get something passed at Council, so even when we had the majority, we still all had to work collectively with others who shared the same view.”

With the change of party, Michael Gencher’s Facebook account, Michael Gencher Your Northern Beaches Independent, has been deactivated.

However, his Instagram profile is where he tends to communicate via social media.

Screenshot: Michael on surf patrol with Mona Vale SLSC.

Parting shots

Cr Gencher was quite scathing of YNBIT in a 28 January public statement announcing his departure (see excerpts below), possibly triggered by a revelation that at least one of his fellow team members did not endorse him as Deputy Mayor last year.

During a secret ballot for the role of Deputy Mayor at the Tuesday 26 September 2023 meeting of Northern Beaches Council, Cr Gencher was proposed by YNBIT, and with their then-majority on the 15-member council, simple numbers should have swung the vote in his favour.

However, Liberal Councillor Georgia Ryburn was the successful candidate, revealing at least one YNBIT councillor did not vote for Cr Gencher.

Awaiting posts… Cr Gencher’s other Facebook profile, apparently dormant since December 2021.

In the aforementioned public statement sent to Manly Observer, Cr Gencher said: “I always understood that the ‘Your Northern Beaches Independent Team’ was a political party – not just a group of independents coming together at election time to share campaign resources and maximise the campaign’s effectiveness…”

He further declared, “I felt part of a group that lacks vision, a platform, a clear cohesive direction, and a unified team…”

Cr Gencher has previously championed Council’s Independents on their cohesion and how they cooperated on socially-minded projects without adhering to a rigid party structure.

On 1 October 2021 in a public post on his Instagram profile, he said, “For me, being an Independent Candidate, is about putting our community first – before any party politics, agenda or ‘suite of policies’ introduced just prior to an election. ‘Independent’ doesn’t mean being alone, isolated, or under resourced… It means being truly connected to the community – ready to listen, serve and represent.”

Cr Michael Gencher’s Instagram post, dated 1 October 2021.

On 21 September 2021, in another Instagram post, Mr Gencher declared, “Fundamentally, I think people should be looking to vote for individuals, who are not connected to party-political issues, neither traditional left-right, nor come with a suite of party policies or political views – rather those that are willing to listen and fight for their Community – and that is what I will do.”

It is understood the team dynamic has shifted with the upcoming departure of former mayor Michael Regan, who is now the state member for Wakehurst.

However, it’s clear in Cr Gencher’s most recent announcement that he had found himself at odds with some other councillors in the group, particularly since that dynamic shift.

 “All too often I found myself on the opposite end of the vote.”

Speaking with our editor, Kim Smee, this morning (2 February), the newly minted Liberal said the reason he has shifted allegiance was, ultimately, he tended to have different views than his fellow party members.  “All too often I found myself on the opposite end of the vote.”

Cr Heins said of Mr Gencher’s volte-face. “I am proud to be part of an independent team who are free thinkers and don’t need rigid structure. If Michael Gencher needs more structure, then he has made the right move, so he gets the direction he needs.”

“If Michael Gencher needs more structure, then he has made the right move, so he gets the direction he needs.”


We asked the Mayor – moving ahead, has YNBIT a preferred candidate to replace Cr Gencher and contest the Pittwater seat in the September 2024 Council Elections?

“Your Northern Beaches Independent Team is just at the beginning of their candidate selection process for this year’s election,” Cr Heins replied. “When the time comes, we will have an awesome Pittwater team ready to represent and serve their community. We will announce all 15 candidates from the five wards keen to represent their community they love at the same time.”

Rumours are circulating that Joeline Hackman, Independent ‘Teal’ challenger for Manly, might join Your Northern Beaches Independent Team in the Sept 2024 Council elections. Photo: Alec Smart

It is rumoured that Manly Teal challenger Joeline Hackman, previously involved with YNBIT, may join the ticket, but candidate interviews are yet to be held.

You can learn more about the Local Government Elections on the NSW Electoral Commissions website. 


Story written by Alec Smart with Kim Smee