I offer the opportunity for open and accountable Council, clearly I am against the in camera meetings. I am against private employment contracts of council management and do not believe any council employee or contract should be earning $5,000 per week.
Our debt has increased $5,000,000 and by 2014 the Budget forecast is for our debt to increase to around $45,000,000. This is totally unacceptable.
It is my intention to review the $27,000,000 payroll which is forecast to rise to more than $30,000,000 pa.
I intend a freeze on renewing or acquiring non urgent replacement of plant and equipment.
As De amalgamation is to expensive, I believe the community is entitled to a voice and will advocate divisional representation so the voters have a councillor accountable to them from their community.
A rate cap of 5% maximum in to offset the wages contract the council signed.
• There is a concern about bureaucratic control stifling the power of council. What way is there to stop top management from having so much control? Is the red tape in the planning department stopping development? Does the CEO have too much power?
Streamline decision making, by reducing the number of councillors required to be involved at every level of every decision would be a healthy start. I believe red tape checks and balances have a role to play in council, but within reason. Council staff need to be more approachable and offer a willingness to engage customers and embrace opportunities instead of being cold uninviting, standoffish or unavailable. The CEO has an enormous responsibility and I do not believe that position has too much power.
• CSG issue. Would you as mayors move to protect the region? Do you see opportunities for this region to benefit from CSG or only dangers?
I am opposed to CSG, however I believe that we are not in a position to go head to head with decisions the state government may make with CSG companies from a legal and financial prospective. I am concerned about the private meetings the current council has held with mining companies in the recent few weeks (as reported by WDN) and if any promises have been made. However I do believe that as local government we can use red tape for once to its advantage in this case and make the exploration prohibitive and unattractive through restrictions placed and added costs. As a region that is located within reach of the CSG fields I do believe we could contribute and benefit by providing supporting resources and services.
• The key to a successful team is its members. Pick your team of eight councillors with a brief explanation of why. Pick your deputy. Who wouldn't you have?
The role of the mayor is to work side by side with the team of councillors that the voters choose to represent them. The more diversity and debate the better for the community so as to reduce the rubber stamp mentality that is prevalent. The deputy mayor should be the councillor that receives the most votes from constituents; this is not the situation in the current council. It is not the decision of the mayor to say who they would not have; this is also the role of the constituents.
• What would be your five specific priorities in your first 100 days after election?
- Seek a resolution to cap rates at 5% for the next term in the budget, which then becomes policy and is then the role of the CEO to enforce
- Seek a resolution also to freeze asset purchases and review major spending, especially in regard to the upgrading of council administrative services (see operational plan on SDRC website for some unnecessary expenditure)
- Instigate discussion around divisional representation
- Adopt a policy to enable councillors to have more direct communication with the media and public
- Allocate portfolios and responsibilities to each councillor
• How would you support and encourage council and the wider community to shop locally? What do you think about the current shop local campaign? How would you address the issue of Warwick businesses being used for Stanthorpe jobs and vice versa?
Adopt a policy of purchasing regionally and provide a loading to give local business an added advantage. Every dollar spend in the region will become exponential rather than leaving the shire , the flow on effect adding to employment opportunities which in turn increases dollars spent back into the community.
Council should lead by example of purchasing locally and encouraging residents to shop locally. We are all one shire and region, Stanthorpe and Warwick business should be encouraged to participate on a reciprocal and complementary basis.
• There is a fear council jobs in the south are being whittled downs by natural attrition and indeed the office could close. What will you do to ensure council jobs still exist in Stanthorpe?
The last thing we need is to reduce employment in the region and this also relates to the current council workforce, but restructuring to increase productivity may be essential to become more cost effective. By encouraging population growth in the shire by attracting manufacturing we will be in a position to also increase the council workforce in relation to the ratio of residents.
• What is your opinion on deamalgamation?
Amalgamation was a very unpopular move by the state government especially in regional areas; however the cost involved would be prohibitive to revoke at this point in time. I would encourage divisional representation if this was endorsed by constituents. This would give a voice back to the smaller communities within the shire.
• There was an obscene rate rise in last budget. Was it acceptable, what would you do to ensure no more of the same?
This has been the main reason for the dissatisfaction of the current council; an increase of over 9% was totally unacceptable. I would propose to cap the rates at a maximum of 5% over the next four years, to achieve this would need to pass resolution in the councils general meeting to adopt this as policy which then becomes the role of the CEO to implement.
• WIRAC would you privatise. Mowing of sports fields in either end of region?
WIRAC is costing ratepayers a phenomenal amount of money each year, with only a small percentage of residents actually utilising the centre due to the cost. I would look at privatising as council should not be competing against local business for a start. By leasing the centre we would be still retain the asset, but at least derive an income rather than continue to lose large amounts of money.
• Tourism. What do you think of the current tourism structure? What is your vision for tourism in the region?
We should have one governing body to oversee the tourism in the region, but keep the areas under their own banners and organisations. One of my biggest disappointments at Christmas time was a day trip to Stanthorpe and a visit to the tourist centre, the lack of promotion of the Warwick area except for one small booklet showed little cohesion between the two areas. The region should be working as a whole to attract and keep tourists here for longer and by exploiting our diversity.
• What parts of the community plan would you implement as a priority? How would you do so? Have you read the community plan?
I have studied the community plan, and believe that while all areas are important we need to prioritise to achieve the opportunities and address the challenges. Essentially we need to be strong in governance, economy and have excellent accessibility, these core elements will enable the rest of the community plan to be implemented successfully.
• How would you cut the budget? Do you have the economic skills to put together a budget in such a short period of time?
The budget has many areas that could be improved and costs cut. One major example that I would encourage all residents to peruse is the 'Operational Plan 2011-2012'( found on the SDRC website under reports) With the catch phrase at the top of each page 'Simply Irresistible' I am still trying to work out if this refers to the temptation to spend ratepayers money? I encourage residents to take the time to examine this report. In regards to the past budget with a rate rise over 9% ( 2011-2012) and a forecast rate rises of 7.5% this year while inflation is currently at 3.1%, I find this difficult to swallow. Also the payroll of the SDRC is 41.8% of total expenditure, how many businesses could afford this? We need to seriously review unnecessary expenditure and stop the empire building of bureaucracy.
• Which council sporting fields/facilities/complexes within our region should council maintain as part of its community obligations.
Council should maintain all sporting fields and facilities as part of its community obligation, however in the case of certain facilities if a community group, organisation or private enterprise can provide the same level of service and facility at an affordable cost to the ratepayer this should be considered a favourable solution ( WIRAC privatisation).
• Have you recently been to a Southern Downs Council meeting? If so, what did you learn, if not how do you know what to expect from your job?
Every month I take the time to study the minutes online of the Council Meetings as they get posted on the internet. I am familiar through many meetings attended and chaired how business meetings are formatted . Time restraints with my career have made it difficult to attend the meeting in chamber, and like a number of other candidates who also have had planning applications before council in the past 18 months my partner and I would have preferred to attended however were unable to due to vendor commitments ( real estate agent).
• Your biggest achievement in the last four years and biggest mistake.
My biggest achievement in the past four years on a professional level is achieving my full real estate license and auctioneers license in Queensland and NSW. Juggling study, a job that demands a seven day per week commitment and a home life can be demanding especially in a real estate market that has been difficult in the past three years. My biggest mistake was a couple of years ago being complacent and rushing when handling my stallion while late for work one morning. I was trying to give him an injection and ended up being kicked, nearly detaching my ear and only millimetres from sustaining a severe injury or death. The lesson being don't take things for granted, and don't rush important tasks without the correct preparation and mindset.
• Why should we vote for you?
I am offering a genuine list of tough policies to implement that I believe is in the best interest of the ratepayers and our community not a list of pretty words or fake promises. Roads cannot be fixed in 12 months, this is a massive problem that will take time. There is nothing in the forward planning to 2021 for debt reduction or major infrastructure upgrades. No planned spending on water infrastructure in the Southern end of the district, no funding for roads or bridge upgrades, no stormwater/drainage upgrades for Stanthorpe or Allora. It's a bit late for others to start promising things now after being in control of the growing debt. I stand by the 12 policies that I believe will bring accountability , transparency and value for money back to ratepayers.
• Tell us your vision for the region.
A shire with a strong sense of community and value
A region with strong and sustainable economic growth that does not sell out to mining for a quick profit
A healthy environment so that we may continue to produce some of the best agricultural products in the country
A healthy population with opportunity, security and fantastic lifestyle
A tourist destination showcasing our produce, our natural beauty and historical significance in the formation of Queensland
* Answers have not been edited