Kerry Hines
Wed, June 15, 2011 at 13:07
Stephanie Hunt in Coffs, Coffs Coast, Coffs Harbour, Denise Knight, Kerry Hines, Michael Crossland

Denise Knight says that the most interesting person she knows on the Coffs Coast is Kerry Hines.  The two women decided to run for Council over too many tequilas, so they have a history.  “Kerry’s rags to riches story is really interesting”, says Denise.  And she also warns me that Kerry is very direct, and to look out because she’s not afraid to say what she thinks. I’m interested, but a bit nervous!

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Councillor Kerry Hines fights for ‘the greater good’

Councillor Kerry Hines is a fighter.  Just ask Michael Robotham, the international crime writer, who she pummelled in high school for having the gall to pick on her girlfriend.  The fact that Kerry has had to fight some pretty tough battles to get to where she is today probably explains her tough, direct, somewhat impatient style.  But underneath her gruff exterior this wrestling, skateboarding tomboy turned successful business woman and tough-talking local politician cares more than she is prepared to let on.

It is Kerry’s heart, and not her plucky temperament that initially shaped her direction in life.  Born and raised in Coffs, she was the first in her family to graduate from year 12 and went on to attend New England University.  She seemed on a course for financial independence from the outset.  But love and the lure of celebrity intervened when she met Phil Emmanuel, a successful musician in his own right and brother of renowned guitarist Tommy.  On graduating in 1981, Kerry moved to Sydney to be with Phil and her life course was changed.

The early days were exhilarating: the rock ‘n roll lifestyle is intoxicating when you’re young.  Kerry became manager and roadie for Phil and Tommy while they were touring together.  “Heaps of fun and interesting things went on.  We did gigs with the Dire Straits World Tour, toured with America, played with Phil Manning from Chain.”  Kerry even found herself singing background vocals live at Sydney’s Entertainment Centre one night.  “It was a great life.”

But the exuberance of being a musician’s wife loses its gloss after awhile.  Tommy left to join Dragon and Phil was touring on his own with Kerry as sound engineer.  Kerry’s first child, Jessie, born in 1989, was lugged to pubs in her capsule for her first 6 months.  Then Kerry stopped touring with Phil.  “It was just too stupid.  Not the way I wanted to bring up children.”  In 1993 Kerry moved back to Coffs Harbour with Phil and their growing family and settled into life as a ‘house-Mum’ while Phil continued to tour on his own.  It was a difficult time of growing unhappiness and a sense of being financially handcuffed.  Not the life for a fighter.

Leaving her marriage proved the biggest fight and principle turning point in Kerry’s life.  “As a woman I think you unconsciously try to protect the brood by making do with an unfulfilling relationship because you’re not sure how you’re going to survive otherwise”, Kerry explains.  It took a start in real estate and a lot of courage for Kerry’s fighting nature to kick in.  “When I started getting on my feet, I thought: What am I doing? What sort of example am I setting for my daughters?”  Kerry walked away, and in 2001 found herself with four young children, a mortgage, some of Phil’s bad debt and no child support.

In the last 10 years Kerry has fought to create an entirely new life for herself and her family.  From inexperienced realtor’s assistant, she has worked long hours into the night to get her real estate licence.  “It was a bit hard on the kids at times because it was bloody hard work,” she says, but she persevered.  She took charge of her love life too.  While at dinner with a friend she told the waitress “I’ll have him” as soon-to-be husband Chris walked past, and a year later this Nowra policeman had left the force and moved to Coffs. Together Kerry and Chris started UnReal Estate from nothing and five years on the agency has offices in Toormina and Coffs, and a quick check of the internet reveals over 100 listings.  Not quite rags to riches….but certainly a hard won struggle for success.

Having fought so many personal battles and won, Kerry is now lending her fight to the local community.  Elected to Council in 2008, she has mixed feelings about being a politician.  On the one hand she sees an opportunity to change things for the better; on the other negativity and death by committee.  “When you have a business and you want to change things you sit down, brainstorm and do something.  Not so with council.  A million and one people have to be consulted,” she fumes.  Action and change are required in Coffs and throughout the system.  “The place is in danger of stagnating,” Kerry exclaims. “We really do need to bring some life into the joint.”   But she is discouraged by her inability to make things happen quickly.  She says the bureaucratic process can be like “Yes Minister”.  “Sometimes it’s difficult to know who is running the joint….difficult not to be manipulated.”  Media insinuation that her decisions are made because she is a self-interested real estate agent really make Kerry see red.  “I’m all for encouraging development in Coffs Harbour – it will give us a better life, increased opportunities, keep people in jobs – if those are selfish reason, then knock me dead,” she exclaims.

But for all her railing against the frustrations of Council her heart is in the right place.  When asked what drives her to invest time and energy into Council she jokingly replies “the greater good”.  But despite the slightly cynical tone, there is clearly truth in this statement.  Kerry genuinely wants to make Coffs Harbour a better place to live.  You may or not agree with her vision, but she is clear what she wants and looks set to keep fighting.  “I’d hate for Coffs to lose its relaxed nature,” Kerry explains.  “But I really do think we need to move forward.  I want to see more businesses and developments drawn to Coffs, to bring more people, provide more jobs and raise the level of living.”

As Michael Robotham will tell you, Kerry Hines packs a punch.  So it’s good to know she cares enough to keep fighting for the Coffs community.

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The most interesting person Kerry knows on the Coast is Michael Crossland.  “This guy fought cancer from childhood and went on to play baseball in America when everyone said it was impossible.  He’s amazing,” Kerry says.  As a fighter herself, Kerry clearly admires this man’s tenacity.  She promises that I will be inspired.

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Article originally appeared on The Most Interesting Person I Know (http://themostinterestingpersoniknow.net/).
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