Mayoral candidate Jim Rickard
Mayoral candidate Jim Rickard Georja Ryan

Jim Rickard

HIS BIOGRAPHY:

I believe these statements are a true reflection of my character and those who know me would testify to:
• In living my life I desire to be honest, open and caring in my relationships and working life
• I am a 59 year old businessman with over 38 years business experience within our Region
• Married for 33 years with 3 adult children
• Experienced community services member having been charter president and District Governor of Rotaract, President of the Warwick Rotary Club, and President of the Warwick Kindergarten Association.
• Sporting roles Men's President and Chairman of Management of the Warwick Bowls Club, Southern Downs Men's District Bowls Association President and District Delegate to Bowls Queensland.
• In my Christian life as a treasurer on management committees, as a children's church and youth leader.
• Experience working with local state and national companies
• Completed industry related courses in marketing, Strategic Planning and Management

HIS VISION

• A commitment to our region and the Community Plan 2030
• Setting a sustainable budget and working within its parameters
• Open honest streamlined communication between all sectors of our community
• Supporting all councillors and staff to achieve the regional goals within our community plan
• Encouraging the growth of Our Region through the promotion of tourism, business and services
• To be approachable to all within the community
• To work with State Government  to ensure our Region has increased opportunities that will improve lifestyle and business
• Ensure all areas within the Region are given equal opportunity to grow and develop 

 

FORUM QUESTIONS

• There is 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?


My experience with council staff, whether they be out door or indoor personnel has been very positive. I find that the staff that I have dealt with to be friendly and willing to help. I believe that better systems could be in place so that if any application, for any reason, be made to council and it is within the policy guidelines set by council, and then it should be approved with the minimum delay. Red tape quiet often is a result of state government regulations; however we need to be more users friendly when interpreting these regulations.  I believe that it is in the councils' best interest if the CEO can work with council. He must not be afraid of telling council unpleasant truths when necessary.


• 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 have recently sent an email to the editor with my views on CSG. Briefly, I stated that the council needs to come up with a policy on CSG as soon as possible. This will give us the chance to circumvent proposals before they become forced on us by outside interests. CSG extraction as it is mined at present should not be approved by council. I believe that there are alternative extraction methods that are more environmentally friendly. These should be considered on a case by case basis. We, as a rural area must ensure that the livelihood of our region is upheld by ensuring the continued prosperity of our graziers, farmers, orchardists and other primary producers.


• 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?


Council is an institution that covers the whole region. It would be arrogant of me to usurp the electorate by saying who I want or who I don't want. I believe that it is in the council's best interest to have representation from throughout the region. At present it could be conceivable that all councillors are elected by the Stanthorpe and Warwick residents. This would be a mistake as outlying areas such as Wallangarra, Killarney; Allora etc should be entitled to local representation. I believe that any councillor elected would endeavour to represent all areas to the best of their ability. It is, I believe, important that we should work toward a ward system to ensure that councillors are represented from the total region. My choice for deputy mayor is the Councillor who achieves the greatest number of votes at the election. I am confident that I can work with whoever is appointed deputy mayor.


• What would be your five specific priorities in your first 100 days after election?

• It is appropriate to talk with the current mayor, CEO and senior council staff to discuss current council items that are carried over to the new council, as well as any foreseeable concerns that may be on the horizon.  It would also be appropriate to discuss council policies to achieve an overview perspective as to where the council is at and its current direction.
• It appears to me that the community perceives that friction exists between the current council and some of the senior staff. As the new mayor and with the support of the new council we need to come together, as I believe, that not only the councillors but also the staff, want to work towards what is best for the region.
• As mayor it is important to understand what is important to the members of the regional council. I intend to have a one on one meeting so that we understand each other and our priorities. It is counterproductive if councillors were, say, on the town planning committee when their passion may be council works. This would enable me as mayor to recommend to council the membership of each committee. We need to as a council have a unified vision for the region so that council, staff and the community generally can proudly see where we are headed and all feel part of working towards the future of the Southern Downs.
• It is imperative that, in these hard economic times, that the council is wise in its financial responsibilities. As the current council has put a lot of work into preparing budgets and rates, it is appropriate, that the new council have a look at current spending forecasts and where appropriate, make changes in accordance with the new council's vision for the future. I believe that a 5 year plan needs to be investigated to reduce or preferably eliminate council borrowings in keeping with the current Community 2030 Plan.  
• At present council is under pressure from State Government regulations including the Local Government Act. I understand that this act is 700 pages long. As we have a new state government we have an opportunity to encourage the minister for a review of this act. We need to encourage our political masters to replace or streamline this act to make it simpler and easier to implement. The imposts imposed on our region through this act and other legislation adds a substantial burden to councils' costs. This cost may be able to be absorbed by larger councils, however, councils our size with limited ways to get finance forces either, a cut in services, or an increase in council charges including rates.


• How would you support and encourage council and the wider community to shop locally? What do you think about the current shop locally campaign? How would you address the issue of Warwick business being used for Stanthorpe Jobs and vice versa?


This question has been around ever since I moved to Warwick 50 years ago. There has been a number of shop locally campaigns conducted in both Warwick and Stanthorpe during that time. It seems to me that all of the campaigns conducted in the past and the present campaign have little or no long term effect. It appears that people go to larger shopping areas when they are away from town as part of their routine. This probably will not change. If council can support the region by shopping locally, and encourage the growth of local businesses, attract new businesses and encourage a feeling of excitement throughout the region we will not only keep people shopping locally but attract shoppers from outlying areas. The internet is fast becoming the means of purchasing goods. If council could develop a community web site for local businesses it may attract interest and buyers from outside the region.

• There is a fear that council jobs in the south are being whittled down by natural attrition and indeed that the office could close .What will you do to ensure that council jobs still exist in Stanthorpe.


Let me reassure everyone in the southern end of the region. The council responsibility is to supply services to the community. We need staff to maintain roads, parks, water supply and we need customer contact personnel to handle all customer enquiries. The best way to fulfil our obligation to our customers is to have a presence in Stanthorpe. I do not believe that Stanthorpe residents should travel to Warwick to pay dog registrations or the like. The region does not exist for the benefit of the northern end, but for all people within our region. It is probable that some administration may be centralised, but this should not be done to the detriment of any section of the region.


• What is your opinion on de-amalgamation?


In my opinion amalgamation was a costly exercise for the whole region. However, now that we have been united, we must work together for the benefit of everyone within the region. It is important that as a council, we do not favour any section over any other section of our region. The cost to separate would be very costly, and I do not believe that either the old Stanthorpe or old Warwick shires could absorb the cost.  In my opinion we need to look to the future, and work together to achieve a lifestyle that everyone within the region can enjoy. Maybe it is time to get rid of state government and have a federal, local council model in Australia where the government is closer to the people.


• There was an obscene rate rise in last budget. Was it acceptable, what would you do to ensure no more of the same.
Any government whether it is local, state or federal has to do a balancing act between the expectations of its people and the cost of meeting these expectations. It seems to me that the extra unwarranted costs forced upon local government by the state, makes this job that much harder. Never the less these pressures do at present part of what councils' have to deal with. The biggest problem that we must control is, overspending today and hope to pay tomorrow. We must concentrate on our core responsibilities, roads, water, garbage etc while controlling our revenue and expenditure.  We must operate the council with a surplus in order to reduce debt and have spare funds for any unforseen imposts on council funds.

• What do you think council needs to do to facilitate business and help business growth within the region?
 

As I have stated previously, we have businesses already established within our region. Council has a responsibility to encourage these businesses to grow. Attracting outside businesses is a bonus. Council should not be part of a discount war; any incentive available to attract business to the area should be made available to our local entrepreneurs as well as the businesses that we wish to target. We need to attract businesses to the region by what we have to offer. These include lifestyle, available water, power, low crime rate and an available employment pool.


• WIRAC would you privatise. Mowing of sports fields in either end of the region?


I believe, council should investigate all options for WIRAC. Leasing of the facility would certainly be a preferred option either to a private concern or to the Department of Education. However, council should be investigating other options such as doing a cost benefit analysis on making the use of the pool free of cost. This could reduce staff, while those using the gymnasium could be paying standard membership costs. Sporting groups could use the remaining area at a nominal fee. If an organisation is leasing facilities (sports fields) or whatever from council, they should be responsible for maintaining the facility. Council leases these grounds at a nominal rate. These organisations should not expect council to maintain the facility as well. Part of being a member of a sporting group is the feeling of participation by supporting the club in its fundraising, mowing or other activities.


• Tourism. What do you think of the current tourism structure? What is your vision for tourism in the region?

The whole region is a tourist Mecca. Look at the number of Bed & Breakfast establishments, Wineries, Historical buildings and National Parks that are spread throughout our region. That is without mentioning things like our Shows', Rodeos', Apple & Grape festival, Jumpers & Jazz in July, Motor Racing, Horse events and major sporting carnivals. Many of these associations have built these events up from nowhere to be major activities, attracting thousands of people from all over Australia.  And a lot of this has been done without council support. Imagine what can be done with more council support! We need more internet coverage, more focus at regional tourism events and maybe developing holiday packages that highlight value added attractions that can be marketed through travel agencies. This could be an exciting time for our region.


• What part of the community plan would you implement as a priority? How would you do so? Have you read the community plan?


I have a copy of the community plan on my desk. I have read the plan and am still trying to come to terms with its implications. It is hard to disagree with the sections that include what we love and want as " Visions" for the future. We all love our lifestyle, our heritage, food and wine etc. The section on Visions ties in with the Challengers and Opportunities section.  This report is The Southern Downs 2030 Community Plan. We have 18 years to implement all the plans goals. One of the visions is for an Economically Strong, Sustainable and Diverse Southern Downs. Without this as a priority council will not be able to support population growth and all that goes with it. We will need to supply infrastructure such as more water, more roads, better and more community facilities such as public toilets. How do we achieve this? We support our local businesses while attracting development to the region.


• How would you cut the budget? Do you have the economic skills to put together a budget in such a short period of time?


I understand that the current council has been working on the next proposed budget. It would be difficult to say what need to be cut or what other changes need to be put in place without inspecting these figures. The budget would have been completed with the assistance of council staff. My personal preference is to liaise with the state government to reduce the legislative requirements placed on us which cost us a fortune. This would be a long and tedious exercise. As a council we would need to prioritise works, looking over the four year term of the council in order that as much is completed as humanly possible. During my business life I have prepared budgets that cover different departments of my business as well as an overall budget of the entire business. It is easy to prepare a budget where everything looks rosy, however when preparing a budget we need to take into account the problem areas as well. I have completed industry training in financial planning, strategic planning and business management.


• Which council sporting fields/facilities/complexes within our region should council maintain as part of its community obligations?


The council has an obligation to maintain all of the council owned sites. However any council owned site leased to any business, organisation, association or committee should then take on the responsibility to maintain that site. Council has an obligation to make these sites available to sporting groups and the like, which it does by leasing the ground or facility at a nominal lease rate substantially under market costs. The cost to council of maintaining all council owned sites would come at increased costs, higher rates and fewer services in other areas.


• Have you 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?

I have not attended a council meeting however I have attended a committee meeting. The meeting that I attended was a town planning meeting, and apart from the emphasis on meeting procedure, I found that the volume of work handled by this committee to be substantially greater than what I expected. The role of mayor is more than running meetings, and I have had extensive experience in this area. I see the Mayor as being pivotal in working with staff, councillors, government bodies and promoting the region in all dealings.


• You biggest achievement in the last four years and biggest mistake.

It is hard to pick one achievement, however I am satisfied that I have achieved my personal goals of maintaining family, business dealings, and sporting relationships while living my values of honesty, integrity and commitment.  Among the highlights were the marriage of our daughters, impending arrival of our first grandchild, winning the Self Selected Pairs Championship partnered by my son at the Warwick Bowls Club. In business I am satisfied with the successful relocation of my business back to our Wood Street premises. The greatest satisfaction however, is my nomination as Mayoral candidate for the SDRC and the public support that I have received. My biggest mistake is endeavouring to answer this question.


• Why should we vote for you

When attempting to answer this question all candidates will offer plausible reasons as to why they should be elected. I trust that people that I know personally or have had business and sporting ties with would vouch for my character and ability. In short I know the region, its people and I am passionate about our future. I believe that I have the ability to promote our region not only locally but also across the state through any medium. I believe that I live my life with integrity, I am honest and will always be truthful and would like to think that I set a good example among the community.   My priorities are my God, my family and my business/professional life. If I am elected I will dedicate my time to improving our region while maintaining our lifestyle. We all want good council services, an expectation of employment and facilities that enable us to enjoy and achieve our full potential. If elected I will work together in harmony with councillors and staff to achieve this goal.


• Tell us your vision for the region.


Our region is on the cusp of an explosion. This explosion will cover all sectors and we must be prepared. We can expect growth in population with many people retiring and moving from the cities to achieve a hassle free existence. Business will come as a result of the population influx. Mining around the state is on the increase and may have inroads into our community. As a council we have to prepare for future changes. As a community our aim, I believe, is to have a carefree lifestyle and resist the pressures that can come with uncontrolled development.  Council has an obligation to assist in the growth of our region. It must prepare infrastructure such as water supply to meet our projected needs. However we do not want expansion at any cost. We must protect our way of life, encourage our primary producers by ensuring that there is adequate land and quality water to meet their requirements, and ensure work for our youth. The only way that we can achieve this is through community consultation, councillors and staff working together while operating within budget constraints. We want and need a future that we all can enjoy, and a future in which we all can participate. The future is in all our hands and with your support we will be able to achieve this.

*Answers have not been edited
 


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