Q&A: Candidates pin down what must change at council

IN THE lead-up to the March 28 council election, The Gympie Times put a number of questions to the region’s candidates.

Today, the 30 men and women fighting for one of the nine seats on the next Gympie Regional Council reveal what they believe must change at the council.

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All responses presented in divisional order, and in the sequence candidates’ names appear on the ballot papers.

Secrecy on items including the Rattler has been a sticking point.
Secrecy on items including the Rattler has been a sticking point.

Mayoral

Glen Hartwig

The leadership. This council is seen as secretive and overbearing. It has lost the understanding that we are there to serve the community not rule with a uneven iron fist. The organisation culture needs to change. It is commonly known that our culture is toxic and not an environment where staff have security in their employment. That is the result of poor leadership. Council needs to spend money that delivers a return to and improves the lives of the residents.

Mick Curran

Council is the largest employer and organisation in the region. As such, we have to constantly review our practices to ensure we are providing the best possible services for our residents. We have a large landmass with a small rate base. It will always be a challenge to meet the expectations of all residents but we must be determined to achieve this. I believe the biggest changes we need is to have councillors who respect the long held principles of their role. We have seen councillors in this term cast their vote but not except the democratic decisions made by the majority of councillors. We have seen some councillors being critical of the organisation and staff publicly however those same councillors have not attempted to internally address their concerns. I am looking forward to working with councillors who will support each other and work together, whilst still having a strong independent and differing opinion on issues, so that we can continue to build on our community strengths and not attempt to tear them apart.

Tim Jerome

I think communication is the thing that needs to change most in council and how council communicate to the public.

Town Hall Photo Renee Pilcher / The Gympie Times
Town Hall Photo Renee Pilcher / The Gympie Times

Division 1

Jess Milne

Communication. Between the community and council and within council itself. Community confidence in council appears to be low and to be successful in moving forward as a region this needs to be repaired. Over spending on projects that may have a fancy design but lack basic functionality. The Gympie Region ratepaying demographic cannot afford to fund and maintain grand projects.

Ash Little

Attitudes towards community members and communication. From individuals, to businesses large and small. Council needs to treat residents for the intelligent and informed people they are. We did not need an external consultancy firm at a cost of one million dollars to tell us that a levee would not work. Listen to the people that employ you. I strongly support a performance review of the current CEO and his accountability as head of the reporting structure.

Mark McDonald

Communication. Over the past eight years I have seen much change. We have a great message that for one reason or another it is not getting out. If we look at all of the great things that have happened within our region over that time then it reinforces that we live in the greatest region in Australia.

Phil Feldman

Communication channels with the public. Transparency in decision making and governance. Planning for future proofing our infrastructure (not waiting till it breaks), Prioritising the investment in community welfare and all that implies.

Gympie Council CEO Bernard Smith. Gympie Regional Council
Gympie Council CEO Bernard Smith. Gympie Regional Council

Division 2

Dolly Jensen

Attitude and red tape.

Leonora Cox

The culture. We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect anything to change. Councillors to be out and about in their community so that the community can feel the ownership of their council. We need to all feel like we’re in this together, not having to check each other’s, performance, or motives.

Red tape for businesses has been another issue.
Red tape for businesses has been another issue.

Division 3

Mal Gear

Communication.

When we did Reef St and such, the businesses were only given a little bit of notice.

I think it has improved but there’s still more to be done.

Terry McMullan

Communication in council is its fatal flaw, there is no communication by the Mayor or councillors and the CEO is silent about the business, there is a need to focus on articulating councils vision and purpose by sending a consistent message. General business needs to be re introduced, Layout of the council meeting room should be more conducive for the public gallery. Staff morale is another area where action is needed to address issues such as cronyism and nepotism.

Shane Waldock

Growing up I used to be proud of our council and how it took pride and looked after our region. Today I fear we’ve lost the basics of Honesty, Integrity & Transparency.

A Council that keeps increasing rates but doesn’t give contracts to local businesses has lost its ethical compass by failing to give work to locals. We need a council that values Gympie with a buy local first policy so the money stays in town.

Michiel Pratt

The culture. I do not believe that Council’s systems are broken as every local government in Queensland operates under the same rules. What is broken is the culture of the organisation and this is an issue that starts at the top of the organisation.

Instead of providing roadblocks to businesses, Council needs to be trying to ensure that businesses succeed in our region as their success will see our region prosper.

Colleen Miller

The attitude. Council needs to remember who they are accountable to, and that is the stakeholders – the residents of the entire Gympie region. This current council has stripped away the essence of our community – their priorities are wrong. There is not enough emphasis placed on actually listening to the issues and concerns of the residents.

Business in action.
Business in action.

Division 4

Bruce Devereaux

The culture. Ten years ago, when a bank colleague would announce they were resigning to join the ranks of council the rest of us got a bit jelly. We’d think, “You lucky sod.” These days, when I learn someone works for our council, I think to myself, “You poor sod.” It’s a symptom of deeper issues but if the next council can fix this I’ll think you’ll find they’ve probably solved the underlying cause.

Rae Gate

The relationship between council and the community needs to improve. Councillors do not have the presence in the community that has been seen in the past. The community and community organisations have an expectation that Councillors be seen and engage. Engaging and listening to residents gives councillors a clear understanding of what the wider community really wants and is concerned about.

Daryl Dodt

Our council is your community, and our community is your council. Your council is made up of about 500 skilled and dedicated staff. Your council provides us with the vast majority of services and infrastructure we use every day. Having had the pleasure to experience the human side of the organisation, I feel that the greatest change would be more engagement with those dedicated people. Phone 1300 307 800 with questions, or go to gympie.qld.gov.au to revel in the great work being done by your council.

Wayne Sachs

I believe that from the outside looking in, reining in spending on unnecessary projects is definitely a priority. Looking at innovative ways to enhance savings to ensure money is spent on essential services is something the community should expect. The budget must be sustainable not just for now, but for future generations, it is the legacy we must leave. I would not want to be part of a council that left a terrible financial legacy.

Gympie Town Hall
Gympie Town Hall

Division 5

Rob Burns

Attitude is what needs to change. If our highly paid management staff were actually part of our community instead of commuters from other regions, I truly believe that their attitude towards every aspect of their jobs would change. Council needs to be proactive and assisting, if something is obviously wrong and there are many things that are, then we must change our ways. We are here to help

Dan Stewart

There needs to be a culture change in parts of Planning and Development, including Major Projects (projects be less grandiose) and around development approvals. Council needs to abolish the Placemaking section, transferring its functions to Venues and Events, and Economic Development. Councillors need to consider unintended consequences, such as the ongoing cost of projects as well as up-front costs. Finally, we need to admit we have got some things wrong and be more open with reports and meetings.

Chelle Dobson

Council needs to get back to basics and provide a consistent and reliable service to the residents of the region. I believe this requires the Mayor and Councillors to take back the power they have delegated to the CEO and be more directly involved in decision making and setting the direction for the CEO to follow.

Greater transparency on services like water were also an issue.
Greater transparency on services like water were also an issue.

Division 6

Hilary Smerdon

This council needs to return to basics, give the rate payer the level of service they deserve first and foremost. The rural resident needs to feel part of this region not feel that they are on the outer and get the crumbs. Cut spending on major infrastructure and return budgets to the black. Maintain all council infrastructure to an acceptable level, no matter where it is.

Brian Thomas

The council’s attitude to the ratepayers needs to change. We need a time and motion study completed as to how we meet ratepayers needs as promptly as possible, maintenance gangs should be stationed in the Kilkivan depot until they have finished all work, crews should not be working in different areas over the region any given day of the week responding to complaints, council should be proactive not reactive to the ratepayers needs.

Mikki Lawson

The infighting, nothing moves forward while there is discord in the ranks, united we stand, divided we fall.

Gympie.
Gympie.

Division 7

Donna Reardon

Increase the amount of meeting to address current issues, this will allow general business to dealt with in an informed setting. We need a council that spends its money wisely for the good of the community, a council that believes in doing a job once and doing it properly. By open and honest discussion, council can prioritise the dominant issues and work together to develop fiscally prudent solutions.

Bob Leitch

There will always be opportunity to improve what council does. Reviewing what has happened, identifying issues and then implementing improvements is imperative.

Warren Polley

A positive, transformational customer service centric Culture.

Widgee,
Widgee,

Division 8

Bob Fredman

I look forward to major changes in our council. If there can’t be a change of people, then I suggest it means a change in attitude. We can do it a lot better. I refer to many areas such as planning, roads, and administration. We need to act like we are a regional town with country values, but operate with the efficiency of a coastal city. It’s all possible, it just needs the right guidance. And I hear loudly that the workers want it too.

Trent Mitchell

The way they come across to the general public, whether its complaints, business troubles, or maintenance, communicating with the people in an open and honest way can often make more progress than shutting them down or giving them no viable options.

Lyndall Ensbey

Change to a true democratic approach where the Councillors and the Mayor have equal and open debate, bringing to the table their knowledge and intelligence to truly represent their communities. This in simple terms: equality, openness, transparency and honesty.