WATCH REPLAY: Gympie council election 2020 mayoral debate

 

A CROWD of more than 150 residents and candidates were on hand on Tuesday night to hear the region's three mayoral candidates - Mick Curran, Glen Hartwig and Tim Jerome - outlay their plans for moving the region forward if elected. Watch the replay of their debate above.

 

Aquatic centre management?

Mr Hartwig and Mr Curran volleyed over the council's decision to hand management of the region's multi-million pool.

Mr Hartwig said Belgravia is there "to make a profit, full-stop" and the managers of the region's old memorial pool wanted the council's help to get to the point they could meet the tender's requirements.

Mr Curran said the council had put the pool's tender out to locals, but at the end of the day the Victorian-based group won.

"There is profit, but I'm sure anyone operating (the pool)... want a wage too."

He said if council's were run as businesses, region's pools would be closed as they are a community asset that does not make money.

Protecting the environment?

MR Jerome and Mr Hartwig said it was a question of balance, and Mr Curran said the strategy aput in place by the past council was "benchmark setting".

Mr Curran also pointed to the region's biosphere which maybe was not as well-known or advertised as it should be.

Gympie's budget concerns?

MR Hartwig said the council needed to stop spending and be aware that every new project brings depreciatation, which was a bill the council had to pay.

In response Mr Curran said the council's plan returns the region's to surplus in 2023-24, and average rate rises - at 1.8 per cent - are only a hair's breadth above CPI (1.7 per cent).

Business donations to councillors in this campaign?

Mr Curran said candidates cannot receive contributions from developers, but it can get them from businesses whom  operate within our outside the community.

"I will be precluded from voting on issues... around people who have declared donations."

"I'm proud some of the leading business in this region are supporting me in this campaign."

Mr Curran was donated $10,000 by Corbet's Group at the start of the election.

Mr Hartwig said he learned in the police force "somethings are lawful but they may not be moral".

He said he did not think it was a good look for large donations from businesses who have been awarded contracts by the council.

In response, Mr Curran tried to ask Mr Hartwig if he would accept them as a Katter party member, but was booed after trying to phrase it when Mr Hartwig informed the forum his membership had lapsed.

 

How to restore confidence in transparency?

Mr Hartwig said it was a simpole solution: "release the reports. Other councils do it".

The reports in question are the long-awaited review into the Rattler, and the staff surveys which have been subject to motions from councillors seeking their release.

However Mr Curran said the Rattler review could not be released as it was not finished owing to legal issues intended to "safeguard the community's money".

Mr Hartwig called this a "smokescreen".

Mr Curran also disputed the release of the surveys, saying it staff only responded on the grounds they were confidential and would not respond if that information became public.

"In my view, it (the surveys) shouldn't be (released)," he said.

He said each councillor was fully briefed on them.

 

The Rattler: how do you make is sustainable and move forward

ON the subject of the region's most controversial item, two of the candidates say the real numbers need to be known before any decisons can be made.

Mr Hartwig said it was not the train but the council's processes which have been the problem, and questioned how much the council was really paying to keep it running - certainly more than the $300,000 per year once depreciation was accounted for,

Mr Jerome also questioned the cost and plan, but Mr Curran said it was a start-up business that has already sold more than 45,000 tickets and 85 per cent of guests coming from outside the region and it is part of the region's history.

THE first clash of the night between Mr Hartwig and Mr Curran over rates and the council budget.

Following Mr Curran's comments that council's rates are "well balanced" and all councillors unanimously supported  the budget, Mr Hartwig disputed this, saying he had refused to support the past three budgets over concerns for who the rate rise was hitting.

Mr Curran refuted this, saying Mr Hartwig had passed all but one part of the process.

The minutes from June 26 reveal Mr Hartwig supported passing all of the individual components including the differential of general rates and levies, but voted against the budget as a whole.

INCUMBENT Mayor Mick Curran pointed to an investment of more than $130 million in the past term as council.

"We have a responsibility to invest today so that we can gain the benefits tomorrow," Mr Curran said.

He said new industry has been attracted and key businesses have grown, and as a result the region's unemployment rate has dropped from more than 10 per cent to less than 7 per cent.

"It is very easy to sit back and criticise when challenges face.

"We've made the council more open and transparent" draft budget processes, open workshops, and record how every councillor voted on issues.

He promised to live-stream meetings in the next term, and introduce a community question time.

A plan to waive infrastructure fees for aged care centres and to help grow the region's health care services.

CANDIDATE Tim Jerome said he has "real concerns" for the region and called for an end to the negativity permeating the region.

"People are telling me... this region has become very, very toxic.

"It's become toxic because of the negativity."

"My emphasis is mediation.

"My aim is to bring this region back together."

Mr Jerome pointed to a Facebook forum for spreading "half-truths and lies" as one of the main problems, and said there was a "common headquarters" to "try and destroy and try and create disunity" and it was important for whoever gets elected to help everyone come together.

GLEN Hartwig opened the forum by outlaying his "desire to improve the community's trust in the council".

He called for the council to rein in spending, and said he would "seek council's hidden reports" like the Rattler report and staff survey, and change the culture to one of openness and honesty.

Fairness in rates and a refusal to target specific groups with rate rises were among his promises, and said he will institute a forensic audit of the council's financial position.

"I will not make promises to give your money away until I know exactly how much we have," Mr Hartwig said.

Mr Hartwig said he will call for a councillor review of the Rattler and how to make it sustainable.

"Gympie has potential but it will not be realised without a change in leadership.

"It's time for honesty, and time for a fresh approach."

 

A CROWD of more than 150 residents and candidates is on hand to hear the region's three mayoral candidates - Mick Curran, Glen Hartwig and Tim Jerome - outlay their plans for moving the region forward if elected.

Each candidate will be given five minutes to deliver their opening spiel, before Gympie Chamber of Commerce host Brendan Allen moves into a question-and-answer session.

You can watch the action unfold live above, and catch up on what you missed right here.

 

EARLIER: THE three men who would be the next mayor of Gympie Regional Council will debate each other at Gympie High School's Hamilton Hall from 5.45-8pm tonight.

 

REVEALED: Full list of who is running in what division for Gympie council election 2020

 

The debate will be run by the Gympie Chamber of Commerce and live streamed on The Gympie Times website from 5.45pm.

After a fiery meeting of candidates in Tin Can Bay on Monday night, the debate has the potential for a few sparks to fly.

Graph of council election donations in Gympie so far, though the Mayor has since received another donation of $7500 from a wealthy local businessman, Tom Strachan of Oakwood Station Unit Trust.
Graph of council election donations in Gympie so far, though the Mayor has since received another donation of $7500 from a wealthy local businessman, Tom Strachan of Oakwood Station Unit Trust.

It will test the mettle of the mayoral candidates, how fast they can think of their feet and their knowledge of the region and the issues - the candidates are incumbent mayor and ex police officer Mick Curran, incumbent councillor and ex police officer Glen Hartwig, and newcomer Tim Jerome.

Mr Curran and Mr Hartwig have a solid background of mutual dislike, and things are expected to be tense tonight if nothing else.

Some of the issues swirling around this election include transparency, integrity, honesty, spending, the stalled push to re-activate the Gympie goldmine, election campaign donations, the collapse of Ri-Con, ongoing problems with the council planning department, high rates and charges, water and waste issues.

Mr Jerome has made his opposition clear on the millions of dollars the Rattler has cost, red tape in council and what he claims are party politics in local government.

The Mary Valley Rattler
The Mary Valley Rattler

The Gympie Times is about information and keeping the public informed of all matters concerning the council.

We see the return of General Business as a matter of priority for the new council.

CEO Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran during the Gympie Regional Council ordinary meeting on March 4, 2020.
CEO Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran during the Gympie Regional Council ordinary meeting on March 4, 2020.

As far as the Right to Information is concerned, the council's axing of General Business in 2016 has succeeded in silencing the elected representatives of the Gympie council, stifling free speech and transparency.

 

CLICK HERE: The proof that killing general business silenced Gympie councillors

 

We hope to see the new council reinstate general business.

Gympie Times


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