Southern Downs residents will vote on March 28.
Southern Downs residents will vote on March 28.

COUNCIL Q&A: 28 candidates respond to your questions

RATEPAYERS of the Southern Downs will go to the polls on March 28.

Southern Downs Regional Council candidates have answered reader questions after you wanted to know about their positions on growth and rates.

All candidates have been listed in alphabetical order.

No response was received from mayoral candidate Peter Kemp or councillor hopeful Julia Keogh.

If you have other questions you want answered then email us at editor@borderpost.com.au

Mayoral candidates

Tracy Dobie

As mayor, what will you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Working with current businesses to expand, and attracting new industries is the key to economic growth.

Building on our agricultural base and getting more manufacturing, logistics, transport and food processing businesses will ensure tourism, retail and hospitality will expand as the number of residents and visitors grow based on these diversified industries.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

It is not feasible to cap rates at their current level every year. The drought has hurt everyone and capping rates for one year to aid recovery must be a consideration. We have gotten the rates increases to their lowest level in 12 years by setting and controlling a tight budget, and that is crucial to keeping future rates increases close to CPI.

Tracy Dobie
Tracy Dobie

Joe Doepel

As mayor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

As mayor I would liaise with local businesses for potential growth areas and find out what’s required from Southern Downs Regional Council to help them grow their business and employ more people.

I’d build on sustainable, regional development plans, including infrastructure – which is required to be able to grow all of the Southern Downs region.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

As mayor I would not support further rate rises. They need to be reduced or capped.

Joe Doepel.
Joe Doepel.

Vic Pennisi

As mayor what will you do to continue to grow the ­region’s economy?

I believe we need to focus on growing existing businesses as well as trying to get new business to town.

I want to lead an open council that is ready for business with a culture of engagement, fairness and optimism. I want a council that believes in less regulation and more facilitation.

We need to create a culture that asks “how we can?” rather than say “why you cannot”.

Would you support further rate rises or do you believe they should be capped?

I will aim to drive rates low. My rates policy will be transparent and clear.

I will engage with the community to find out what you want and what we can afford, and deliver the best budget that meets both of those. We need to find alternate income streams so we can put downward pressure on rates and reduce the cost of living for our residents.

Vic Pennisi.
Vic Pennisi.

Councillor candidates

Ross Bartley

As a councillor, what will you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I would look at implementing a five-point plan to grow this region’s economy.

1. Support existing industry, and assist when adverse conditions occur.

2. Attract new industry by providing incentives.

3. Provision of water security for the whole region.

4. Work with State and Federal government to attract funding for new and existing business enterprises.

5. Address unreasonable conditions that are an impediment to industry development.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents, or do you believe they should be capped?

I believe that rate capping can be achieved if there is a careful review undertaken to ensure that the way in which council delivers certain services to the community is carried out in the most cost effective manner.

Ross Bartley.
Ross Bartley.

Paola Cabezas-Bono

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s ­economy?

Buy local and award projects to local companies.

Secure water.

Less red tape for businesses to get established in the region.

Promotes tourism and local events.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents, or do you believe they should be capped?

We need to work with what we have.

The income is 89 million and we expend 77 million.

If we use resources more efficiently it will keep the costs down.

We need to find savings and reduce assets – the ones that do not generate income or provide services.

Paola Cabezas Bono.
Paola Cabezas Bono.

Marion Carrick

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

We have a wonderful and diverse region with many great opportunities. In order to provide a stable future, we need to innovate and grow tourism, industry, agriculture and business segments. Water is the cornerstone and is essential to all of the above and I will use the resources available to me to increase our water reliability. I believe we should focus on attracting a diverse range of businesses from boutique to large.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I believe Council has a responsibility to strive to keep rates as low as possible for a potential 2 year period. The fires and drought have been financially tough on many people in the region. It may take a number of years to recover.

Marion Carrick.
Marion Carrick.

Scott Christensen

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

As a councillor, pursuit of water security for all communities in the Southern Downs (towns and farmers) is my main focus; as it was in 2016 when I ran for council.

With water comes economic growth, and future developments, which provides regional security for all businesses and farming enterprises.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I would love to believe rates will be capped in the future but, in reality, the council has a business to run and debt to repay as well as providing services for all residents.

Scott Christensen.
Scott Christensen.

Robert Ettery

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Our region is very much dependent upon the fortunes of the agricultural and viticultural pursuits of our farmers and winemakers. This, in turn, attracts the tourism mainstream to our wonderful area and provides another industry for our region. Securing the long-term water needs of our region by drought proofing our towns and industries and ensuring the dams get built and the pipelines are put in is but one of many issues I want to target.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Ordinarily, I am a firm believer in not “capping” charges or any other fees that government and business impose upon us. However, the SDRC must also be reflective of its ratepayers. I would not accept a rate rise above the Consumer Price Index so the answer to the question is yes.

Robert Ettery.
Robert Ettery.

Andrew Gale

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s ­economy?

We must seek to slash the levels of red tape and other onerous hurdles imposed on development.

The biggest roadblock though is water. Increase water security.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents, or do you believe they should be capped?

I object that recent ­administrations have seen annual rate rises as ­mandatory.

Savings must be found in spendings, especially on vanity projects, vehicle and plant budgets.

I support quarterly rate bills – with matching discount periods.

Andrew Gale.
Andrew Gale.

Marco Gliori

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I believe our economy will continue to grow through respectful consultation between local government and industry leaders. It is essential to promote and celebrate our paddock to plate reputation. The rural producers require secure water, as do the residents. Several options are presently being explored. I look forward to seeing them come to fruition, without limiting the exploration of future alternatives.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

As a ratepayer I would be happy for rates to be capped. As a councillor, and ratepayer, I share the responsibility with all my constituents of paying for services. I would encourage councillors to assist in any way we can, to be empathetic to resident’s concerns, and ensure our services are of the highest standard.

Marco Gliori.
Marco Gliori.

Cameron Gow

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s ­economy?

Work with local business, Chambers of Commerce, industry groups and the community to identify, facilitate and deliver on opportunities and capitalise where possible on developing new business and expanding existing businesses in our region.

Bringing new business is about promoting our region and as a result of drought and bushfire, external funding is available to sell our region far and wide.

Would you support further rate rises or do you believe they should be capped?

Keeping rates as low as possible while still providing the services our region needs is the greatest challenge of local government. The previous term of council had a target of keeping below 4 per cent increases. This current term had a target of below 3 per cent. The next should aim even lower.

Cameron Gow.
Cameron Gow.

Greg Grant

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I will be an advocate for honest, transparent and timely communication between all parties involved such as Chambers and associations and government departments.

I would like to see a review of council operations and procedures to ensure there is direct and timely communication with existing and potential businesses in the region and that they are working in accord. All business organisations such as those mentioned above should be included.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I don’t support rate rises but nor do I think they should be arbitrarily capped. Council should always attempt to minimise rates. Any rate increases (or decreases) should be openly and candidly explained.

Greg Grant.
Greg Grant.

Jenn Greene-Galloway

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Firstly, set future water infrastructure in stone to encourage development confidence, coupled with a now at capacity water allocation, if supported, the time is right to kick start the region, suspend developer fees, contributions and charges, with certain exclusions, to provide incentive for a specified period, waive charges for small lot subdivisions. Create a specific planning department to provide helpful advice, flexibility, remove the obstacles to get developments over the line without significant cost and within the town planning scheme.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Raising rates is the easy option. I’ll advocate and support shifting the focus to identifying areas of saving internally.

I will not support unreasonable increases, I’m a rate payer who feels the pain too, if what’s brought to table is unacceptable, I’ll advocate until it’s fair and right, I’ll endeavour to support keeping rates increases as minimal as possibly practicable, rates are not for profit, we need time to get back on our feet.

Jenn Greene-Galloway.
Jenn Greene-Galloway.

Amanda Harrold

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

My time with the chamber has helped me to understand the challenges we face in sustaining and growing our economy. The main limiting factor on the Granite Belt has been the lack of water security and that is why the chamber fought so hard for Emu Swamp Dam.

Water security for the whole of the Southern Downs will ensure the region’s economy grows. Another issue I hear from businesses is that there needs to be a focus on making it easier to “do business” with the council.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

If elected I will support a freeze on rates increases as the region recovers from the drought and fires. In the report recently received from the Queensland Audit Office, SDRC was shown to have an acceptable operating surplus with a noted improving trend and the council is generating surpluses consistently.

Amanda Harrold
Amanda Harrold

Max Hunter

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

To maintain and grow the regions economy would be to remain sustainable by strong financial considerations and good community consultation.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Further rate rises are considered in relation to the needs of the regional expectations to remain economically sustainable and to maintain essential infrastructure, while considering environmental and future growth for generations to embrace.

Max Hunter.
Max Hunter.

Michael Jensen

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I will advocate for:

•New water solutions to help grow and build the economy of the region;

  • Reducing red tape for developers and businesses when they are looking to expand;
  • Greater involvement by the SDRC economic development unit to help new and established businesses through the process;
  • Greater support for buying local when major projects and works occur;
  • Continuing to source state and federal funding for infrastructure projects that provide an incentive for businesses to move to the region.

Would you support further rate rises or do you believe they should be capped?

I support further efforts to find more efficiencies and savings to place downward pressure on future rate increases. Council must continue to manage the current debt, work on reducing unnecessary expenditure to ensure rate increases are kept to the bare minimum.

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen

Gregory Johnson

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy? As a councillor I will be doing everything I absolutely can to ensure water security not just for town residents in the Southern Downs, but also for farmers; as agriculture is a primary economic driver for this region. Once we stabilise our water issues, I will be all for some heavy promotion of our region as the place to visit. More visitors to our region will equate to more economic growth across many sectors, especially retail and hospitality.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I would not support rate rises except under exceptional circumstances where there were not many other options available to secure necessary funding for council operations. I would need to be convinced of that and I believe such a move should require council to engage in open discussion with ratepayers to explain why a rate rise absolutely necessary.

Gregory Glenn Johnson.
Gregory Glenn Johnson.

Rod Kelly

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

This council has created a clear vision which commits council and stakeholders to grow the population through continued economic development.

A wider range of businesses, industries and services is vitality important to grow local employment.

The current review of the region’s planning scheme will further enhance economic development with business and population growth in all industry segments, including tourism as a result.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

This council has demonstrated financial responsibility recognising the capacity of ratepayers to deal with successive rate rises. Rate rises of about 10 per cent in 2011 and 2012 impacted heavily. Through prudent financial management, the council has reduced rate rises from 4 per cent in 2016 to 2 per cent this financial year.

Rod Kelly.
Rod Kelly.

Susan Laws

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

As a councillor I believe the key to economic growth in our region would be a reduction in approval times and council fees for building projects. That would be a help and offer start-up incentives to attract new business to the region.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Rate rises for the Southern Downs are inevitable unfortunately.

I wouldn’t like to commit to capped rates only to find we cant continue to maintain services.

A thorough review of expenditure to ensure we are getting the best value for our money would be needed before I agreed to any increase.

Susan Laws.
Susan Laws.

Cynthia McDonald

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Our region has a diverse base but, to grow, we must improve the reliability of our infrastructure. In particular, guaranteeing water resources is essential to support existing businesses and to attract new industry. While agriculture continues to be our leading sector, by virtue of our key strategic location at the crossroads of the New England and Cunningham highways, we should be expanding our transport and warehousing businesses.

Our region should also have a regional livestock exchange to support both the northern NSW and Southern Downs. Agritourism would be another key area for development.

Would you support further rate rises or do you believe they should be capped?

While the region recovers from bushfires and drought, the council should freeze rates at the current level for 12–24 months. As per other drought and bushfire zones, consideration should be given to allowing residents to defer rate payments for an agreed period.

Cynthia McDonald.
Cynthia McDonald.

Jo McNally

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

The council is undertaking a revision of the planning scheme and this is an opportune time to work with residents and business owners to determine what constraints may be hindering business expansion. The council does have the ability to offer incentives for existing and new businesses to expand which can result in more residents in the region growing the economy.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I cannot in good faith promise there will not be rate rises as there are always external and internal factors that have to be considered when formulating the budget. The community is consulted during the budget which is now legislated for all Queensland councils, following our council’s lead. It is important for the council to continue to advocate to federal and state governments for recurrent grants to ensure rate can be kept to a minimum.

Jo McNally.
Jo McNally.

Marika McNichol

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I will continue to advocate for adequate water supply solutions, by working on a business case with the Queensland and NSW governments, to get sufficient irrigation water into our region so our farmers can maintain full production through future prolonged droughts similar to 2018/19.

The SDRC new strategic plan, Shaping Southern Downs, will help move our economy forward by; job creation via encouraging businesses to invest in our region, helping established businesses grow, promoting tourism and marketing of our great region. If farmers and business prosper, our region’s economy grows.

Would you support further rate raises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I have spent the past four years advocating to keep the rate raises down to record lows, the lowest rate raises we have ever had. I will make it a priority to urge the council to continue to adopt fiscally responsible policies.

Marika McNichol
Marika McNichol

Barbara Marsden

As a councillor what will you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

This could be achieved by enhancing tourism throughout the region. Water security would be a prerequisite for success here. Education for the school leavers is necessary to encourage them to stay locally. Courses could be through TAFE in Warwick and Stanthorpe. agriculture, winemaking and other short courses would provide an holistic approach to the future.

The proposed Warwick bypass needs prioritising. . This project will enhance the whole district by streamlining access.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

I do not believe that rates should be increased for this next year. There has been immense financial suffering. Programs may have to wait till the following year to commence so that rate increases can held over.

Barbara and Ian Marsden
Barbara and Ian Marsden

Glyn Rees

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

As part of the council team, I will encourage, support and pursue the establishment of economic opportunities and employment creation, as well as making processes for new business establishment easier to attract economic expansion in the community.

Commercial growth and a healthy agricultural industry, new opportunities and investment are integral to the economic wellbeing and future of our Southern Downs community.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

As time progresses, rates obviously need to rise given influencing costs. I have no issue with capping but our rates income must reflect the cost of services provided to the community.

In saying that, and with community consultation, the council needs to pursue the most economic use of funds.

Glyn Rees.
Glyn Rees.

Yve Stocks

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Continue to seek state and federal government funding to support infrastructure projects. In the past four years the council has received $96 million to help us grow businesses, jobs and infrastructure.

Along with this we need to lobby govt for improved health services and education facilities for future families. I believe we also need affordable housing.

Water security is extremely important for a growing region.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Rates will always have an increase – the CPI is always rising, and we should keep pace with that. Last year the SDRC rate increase was 2 per cent — the lowest it has ever been. Hopefully council can continue along this line. I’m sure we would all like not to have a rate rise, but at what cost?

Income from rates funds budget, projects and pays the staff.

Yve Stocks
Yve Stocks

Stephen Tancred

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

Adequate water for existing and new industry to operate underwrites all our growth.

Council has to take the lead on water. The Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce has made Emu Swamp Dam a reality (not council).

Council needs skills, actions and motivation for real, affordable water solutions.

Not just press releases and yet-to-be released business plans and costings.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

Capped for some of the next four years if possible. Small increases, if needed.

I can only fully evaluate how to make savings once elected and on the inside.

Many of our ratepayers are on fixed incomes and can’t afford rises.

Many new residents have moved here from the coast only to find we have very high rates.

Change is needed.

Stephen Tancred.
Stephen Tancred.

Russell Wantling

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

I think given today’s climate we need to really focus on water security.

If this region is to grow and prosper for our future generations then this needs to become a focus. It is blatantly obvious without water security every inch of our region will go backwards. Water will guarantee the growth of our existing industries, whether it is agriculture, horticulture, retail, industry, tourism and everything in between, but it will also attract new and exciting prospects to our region.

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or do you believe they should be capped?

There is no doubt rate rises have been a bone of contention in the Southern Downs. The reality is that without rate income the region cannot provide necessary services to its residents. Having said that, I will not support any rate rise above the CPI.

There has to be a balance and a hard look must be taken at circumstances the region is facing at that time.

Russell Wantling.
Russell Wantling.

Sheryl Windle

As a councillor what would you do to continue to grow the region’s economy?

There is no “one size fits all” dynamic to continue to grow the region’s economy.

Economic growth can be driven by business investment, an increase in tourism numbers and consumer spending. A continued united effort from residents, to promote the region in a positive way, will encourage people to want to come here, to boost the economy.

I will continue to support the economic development and tourism team and the new council to continue forward planning, with a focus on sustainable growth

Would you support further rate rises for Southern Downs residents or should be capped?

The current council has reduced rate rises over the past three years, which have been the lowest for the past 16 years and has already discussed the possibility of a zero rate increase for the 2020–2021 budget. I cannot predict what the future will be for the next council however, if I am re-elected, it would be my aim to continue with good financial management.

Sheryl Windle.
Sheryl Windle.
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