Huge cost forces Chamber to shift election forums
GYMPIE voters looking to meet this year's council candidates will need to go back to school, with the Chamber of Commerce forced to relocate the events due to cost.
The three events, originally scheduled to be held at the Civic Centre over the next couple of weeks, have now been relocated to Gympie State High School's Hamilton Hall.
In an apparent about-face, Chamber president Tony Goodman, an outspoken critic of the council, was told by CEO Bernard Smith his organisation would have to pay $1600 to hire the Civic Centre for the forums.
Mr Smith said this was because the council needed to stay at arms length during the election.
Mr Goodman said the porhibitive cost and subsequent venue shift was disappointing given the community's eagerness to meet those campaigning for a council seat.
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The two evening divisional forums at the Civic Centre were to be free to the public.
The mayoral candidate breakfast forum was to have a $5 charge.
"We're getting nothing back," Mr Goodman said,
"The cost of $1600 is quite prohibitive."
The Gympie Times sponsored the cost of a two-and-a-half hour, Chamber-run meet the candidates forum ahead of last year's federal election, and was charged $82.50.
This was held at a smaller venue, with no extras at a discounted price.
Mr Goodman reached out to the council several times about resolving the issue, to no avail.
Mr Smith said the nature of the election meant distance needed to be maintained.
"Whilst the forum could be considered to be in the public interest, the heightened scrutiny and interest around local government elections means we need to stay removed as much as possible from electioneering," he said.
"This is witnessed by the Queensland Audit Office and our external auditors advising that they will be monitoring the actions of all councils during the caretaker period."
Mr Smith said while the Chamber would be charged for the Civic Centre's use, the $1600 total included a $470 discount.
The quote included labour, equipment, services and breakfast.
As a result of the change, residents of Divisions 3 and 4 will be able to meet their candidates at 5.45pm on Wednesday, March 4, at Hamilton Hall on Cootharaba Rd.
Division 2, 5 and 7 candidates can meet their potential representatives at 5.45pm on Wednesday, March 11.
The mayoral candidates will gather for their forum at the same time in Hamilton Hall on Tuesday, March 10.
All three events run until 8pm.
Division 1 voters will be able to meet their candidates from 5.45pm on Monday, March 9, at the Tin Can Bay Country Club on Gympie Rd.
The forum for Mary Valley voters will be held on Thursday, March 12.
A time and location are still to be confirmed.
Details for a meet the candidates session for Division 6 voters are not yet known.