Stewart: ‘Bring back general business’

THE Gympie Times ran an editorial that stated that two petitions will likely be “never seen or heard from again” (GT Feb. 12).

As a councillor I had the same concern in past years.

In November 2018 I had clause 8.6 added to the standing orders. This clause requires staff to at least consult with the relevant portfolio and/or divisional councillor regarding petitions.

The chief petitioner is to be provided a response within two months of the petition being tabled.

Further in regard to meetings, concern has also been raised in the community about the number of matters that are decided behind closed doors. I share the concern.

Over the last several years I have voted against some items being debated “in committee”. I have sought reasons behind other items going into committee. More recently I have been asking that reports from in-committee items be made public, for example, when contracts are awarded.

If re-elected I will seek to further amend standing orders. I want councillors or their nominees to be able to raise matters of community interest in the meeting. I also want councillors to be able to raise motions from the floor (“general business”) as well as on notice.

To improve public experience of meetings there are plans for microphones and an improved layout of the council chambers. I will continue to advocate for this to occur, as well as the introduction of live streaming.

Interaction between the council and the community can be improved. I would like to see the reintroduction of community forums where residents have the opportunity to question the council.

The Regional Roundup could be less of a public relations exercise and more information sharing by making it shorter, cutting out most the photos and providing more information.

Meanwhile I will continue to provide comprehensive summaries of meetings and updates through my Facebook page.

I do not expect constituents will always agree with me.

However I will continue to listen to the concerns of the community and seek to find solutions for town and country.

Cr Dan Stewart, Division 5, East Deep Creek

MORE LETTERS:

Health by the wayside

AS I have stated in the past, the coming council election has more than a hint of deja vu about it. I believed that there would be few surprises in the campaign.

But I was stunned to read the headline (The Gympie Times, Thurs., Feb. 13): “Curran enters fray with big Gympie health pledge”.

Some time ago I attempted to contact all councillors by telephone to suggest that the money being spent on the council’s self-promotional publication, The Round-Up be given instead to Little Haven Palliative Care.

The Councillors to whom I spoke will remember the conversation.

Their reactions ranged from firm support for the idea to tepid, party-line caution.

I particularly recall Mayor Curran, in his unequivocal rejection of the idea, categorically stating that health was a State Government responsibility and that the council had no role to play in that area. I wonder what has brought about this welcome change?

Actually, the Mayor seems to have only very recently realised that Gympie has a significant aged and ageing population. Perhaps he noticed the telling figures in Scott Rowe’s slick, statistical panorama of the Wide Bay region at the business breakfast the day before he launched his flagship health policy.

There was certainly no evidence of awareness of the health needs of the community when the Aquatic Centre was constructed without the heavily petitioned hydro-therapy pool (recently considered as an expensive afterthought).

Nor do I recall any real concern being shown by the council when Gympie lost its private hospital some time ago.

Indeed, has there been any significant health- related project undertaken in the past four years?

But “better late than never”as the saying goes. So hopefully the next council will be more attuned to the needs of its numerous, older constituency.

Merv Welch, The Palms

Less talk, more action

Re: Kilkivan aged care (The Gympie Times, Sat Feb. 15)

THE members of Kilkivan Community Care Association are bewildered as to why the council continues to dodge the central request here: agree that in principle, with conditions attached, a particular Kilkivan block of land can be used by a community group to develop, in a timely way, an aged care facility for Kilkivan and district.

It seems to us that Council is determined to keep fobbing off the community and is using spurious reasons to justify inaction. For example, the online coverage of the issue last Saturday included this quote from a “council spokesman”: “Council is aware of the preferred site for residents; however, any site selection is premature as land will be determined in due course once community needs and the preferred structure and operating model is identified and confirmed.”

“By whom?” we ask. Is the council suggesting that it will decide what’s best for us? Our community members, who have been extensively, repeatedly, consulted over two decades about what they want in this matter, are tired of repeating themselves at seemingly never-ending rounds of consultation. In the vacuum of inaction by the council on this matter, we decided to do something to help ourselves. For the last five months we have consulted a lot of external stakeholders, including the council, to ensure that we approached the process systematically and thoroughly. We have waited until now to put our proposal to the wider community because we were concerned that we would prematurely raise our elderly residents’ expectations. Now, just as we want to get going, the council stalls us yet again.

Our community is rapidly ageing, and quite frankly, the time for waiting for the council to act on this matter is over. The former Kilkivan Shire Council purchased in the mid-1990s this block beside and behind the Kilkivan Catholic Church for the specific purpose of aged care, so we regard that land as rightfully available to residents of Kilkivan and surrounding districts. We want Gympie Regional Council to immediately provide the assurance of the Land’s availability to the project so long as conditions are agreed to, and act in a supportive manner to assist the community-managed proposal. We can then get on with the next sequences in the project’s development. We intend to ask for State and Federal grant funds to build it.

The council’s own report into the matter relied on the community engagement findings in both 2018 and 2019 – how many times do they need to chat to us about this topic? We don’t want a one-size-fits-the-whole-region approach – we just want the opportunity to decide when and what our frail/aged population has available in our own district.

Rosie Fitzgerald, President, Kilkivan & District Community Care Association

State’s home truth

THE latest Queensland Auditor-General’s report into the state finances reveals some home truths about Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad’s mishandling of the Queensland economy.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s reckless economic mismanagement over the past five years has driven Queensland’s financial position to the worst it’s ever been, creating a massive budget black hole.

Every dollar that Labor wastes is a dollar they can’t spend on the infrastructure a growing state desperately needs.

We know from history that when Labor run out of money they come after yours with higher taxes.

Already in this term, Queenslanders have faced nine new or increased taxes ripping $3.5 billion out of the Queensland economy.

While Labor’s dodgy Treasurer Jackie Trad has been distracted with integrity scandals and her own personal property investments, the Auditor General’s investigation has revealed that this year the Queensland government will have net operating deficit of $1.1 billion.

As Queensland’s surgery wait lists blow out, NAPLAN education standards continue to fall and youth crime spirals out of control, Annastacia Palaszczuk has chosen to splurge taxpayer money on apps for fat dogs, changing hospital names and record international travel expenditure.

After five years of power, it’s clear that Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad are in it for themselves at the expense of hardworking Queenslanders.

Queensland has boundless opportunity, but we need a government that has the plan and the ambition to unleash that opportunity.

Only the LNP has a plan to build a stronger economy that will create more local jobs and improve health and education services.

Tim Mander, LNP Deputy Leader and Shadow Treasurer