Gympie Council Election 2020: Candidates grilled at forum
CANDIDATES for Divisions 2, 5 and 7 shared the stage at the Gympie Chamber of Commerce’s final Meet the Candidates forum ahead of the Gympie Regional Council election on Wednesday night.
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Gympie State High School’s Hamilton Hall wasn’t quite as packed as it was for Tuesday’s mayoral forum, but a healthy audience watched on as six of the eight hopefuls were grilled on their views surrounding the biggest pre-election questions.
Deputy Mayor and Division 7 incumbent Bob Leitch was joined by fellow candidates Donna Reardon and Warren Polley, while Division 5 councillor Dan Steward sat alongside challenger Chelle Dobson.
Leonora Cox was the only Division 2 candidate present. Challenger Dolly Jensen, who missed the forum to be with her terminally ill sister, was represented by her husband Graeme, while Division 5 candidate Rob Burns sent his apologies through Chamber president Tony Goodman.
Among the biggest issues discussed were economic development, controversial projects such as the Rattler and the ARC, waste management, council red tape and transparency between the council and the community.
The candidates unanimously supported the return of general business to future council meetings, but some were more enthusiastic than others.
Ms Cox said she would “absolutely” welcome a return to general business.
“There’s nothing wrong with a councillor getting a message at the last minute from a constituent and coming into the meeting and saying I’m going to move this motion. It doesn’t have to be voted on right there, it can be left for further consideration,” she said.
Ms Reardon called general business “very important”, while Mr Polley said it was a “no-brainer.”
“As long as they don’t expect an answer in that meeting and (allow) time to consider it and come back with an informed decision down the track,” Mr Polley said.
Mr Stewart said he voted for general business to return “three years ago” and had written amendments to bring it back “if re-elected”.
“We cannot always decide right away, I like to take time to think. It’s good to have that freedom and to be seen to have that freedom to raise the issues.”
Mr Leitch, while not against general business, said he was “more for making informed decisions”.
“A gentleman last night stood up and asked that the mayor … would ensure all councillors got full detail before they made a decision. I’m not sure how you can have full detail if it’s general business and someone stands up and sends a message through and says I want you to make a decision on this,” Mr Leitch said.
“Good governance says that you do have the research and you have the knowledge behind you to make a good decision.”
Ms Dobson said she was in “total agreement” with the return of general business, calling for less in-committee decisions and more research by councillors on “all advice given”, even from council staff.
Mr Jensen said two “meet and greets” with Ms Jensen had been arranged for March 16 at the Curra Hall from 5.30pm and March 17 from the same time at Theebine Hall.