Bathurst mayor Gary Rush to resign after drink-driving charge

RESIGNATION: Bathurst mayor Gary Rush is quitting the role after being charged with drink-driving.
RESIGNATION: Bathurst mayor Gary Rush is quitting the role after being charged with drink-driving.

BATHURST mayor Gary Rush will resign from council on Monday morning after being charged with drink-driving on Friday night.

Cr Rush blew a low-range reading of 0.066 after being stopped by police on Panorama Avenue about 11.30pm.

He said he had been out for dinner and at no time believed he was over the limit.

However, he said he could not condone drink-driving and believed he had no choice but to resign.

“Drink-driving is too important an issue in our society and the laws regarding drink-driving are there ultimately to provide safety for all us,” he said.

“You can’t have people running the risk of harming themselves or others, and that’s especially the case when you are the mayor.”

Cr Rush had served for three-and-a-half years as mayor and overseen a period of great growth for the Bathurst region.

But the demands of the job had come at a significant personal cost, including a relationship breakdown and business difficulties.

He has also been the target of a sustained attack from Sydney-based radio personality Ray Hadley over his business dealings.

For all of that, Cr Rush said he had no regrets.

“My overwhelming feeling is what a privilege it has been to mayor of this great city, particularly through our bicentenary,” he said.

“I would like to think this council has executed its role particularly well and set in place significant opportunities around economic development and created a more inclusive community.

“We are all faced with personal challenges and in no way are there any excuses which support someone getting in a motor vehicle and driving while under the influence.

“The execution of the job of mayor and the responsibilities that come with it present personal challenges every day and it was those personal challenges that have often motivated me to be determined to succeed.”

Cr Rush’s resignation will leave just seven councillors on Bathurst Regional Council after Jess Jennings stepped down last may to contest the federal election as the Labor candidate for Calare.

It is unclear when an election for the new mayor will be held but Wednesday night will be the first opportunity when council meets for its monthly policy committee meeting.

Deputy mayor Graeme Hanger said he was sad to see Cr Rush go but supported his decision.

“Gary is devastated that his three-and-a-half years of hard work as mayor has ended so suddenly but it’s the right decision in the circumstances,” he said.

Cr Bobby Bourke, whose vote handed Cr Rush the mayoral reins in 2013, said Cr Rush had been under a lot of pressure in recent months.

“I’ve been a councillor under six mayors and Gary has been right at the top in terms of being the most progressive mayor I’ve worked with,” he said.

“Gary has taken Bathurst to places we haven’t been to before and Bathurst as progressed to a whole new level.

“On a personal note, Gary has been under a lot of pressure in his personal life but he has been strong enough to put that behind him and focus on his job as mayor.

“I think this drink-driving charge has been the turning point for Gary to make some big decisions but I don’t really think it’s the best outcome for Bathurst because we have to start over again.”