Southern Downs mayoral candidates pitch to business
SOUTHERN Downs mayoral hopefuls Ross Bartley, Peter Blundell, Tracy Dobie and Jay Nauss made their election pitches to Warwick's business community at the first Chamber of Commerce breakfast for 2016.
CLEAN, lean and mean.
That's the kind of council Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley would like to run.
The mayoral candidate's pitch to the Warwick business community was short and sharp.
He told the Chamber of Commerce breakfast of his desire to open up the council to the community.
"We need to let the community in to see how we make the tough decisions," he said.
"We need to involve the public more in our budget process.
"Confidential meetings and briefing sessions only create intrigue."
As part of his lean and mean message, Cr Bartley outlined where he'd like to see efficiencies.
"We must look closely at how we manage our fleet," he said. "Large rate increases are not the only way forward."
Speaking about infrastructure, Cr Bartley highlighted the importance of projects such as the Emu Swamp Dam and the natural gas pipeline.
"The only way we will improve our future industrial expansion is bring natural gas here for processing," he said.
"Processing is labour intensive. You bring the jobs."
According to Cr Bartley, Emu Swamp Dam had come so far the council could not reverse out of it.
"We need to be down there knocking doors down in Canberra every week if we need to," he said.
"Both of these will produce long term job opportunities. That's how you promote growth."
SITTING mayor Peter Blundell has used his address to the Chamber of Commerce to spruik his economic credentials.
Cr Blundell said the focus for the next four years needed to be on reducing the debt.
He said the council had to make some tough decisions in the past four years.
"There's been a lot of effort to look at how debt has been reduced," he said.
"We're able to report we've been able to reduce the debt by $2 million.
"The 10-year forecast points very clearly to 4% rate rises and the equalisation of water costs."
According to the mayor, the council was on track to achieve an operating surplus of $374,000 - well above the forecast $9000.
While Cr Blundell admitted the rate rises and fees and charges increases had been contentious, it was important to remember how the council got into debt.
He said the council inherited $14 million debt at amalgamation, which had blown out to $27 million by the end of the first term.
Cr Blundell said the council borrowed to deliver the water pipeline to Allora.
"That's the sort of project we should look at borrowing for," he said.
Outside his economic focus, the mayoral candidate spoke of the importance of teamwork on the council
"There's an absolute necessity for people who are on council to understand they are all members of a team," he said.
"We need to support the democratic decisions of council."
MAYORAL candidate Tracy Dobie has taken aim at her rivals' abilities, accusing them of not answering the questions provided by the Chamber of Commerce.
Ms Dobie delivered the smack down after the other candidates asked for extra time to answer the questions provided.
"This is what's at the base of the problem in council; people don't understand their jobs, they don't do what they're asked to do and we take four or five times as long as we have to do," she said.
Among the issues addressed by Ms Dobie were rate rises and staff cuts.
She stated she did not support staff cuts.
"Cutting staff does nothing to encourage efficiency," she said.
"Cutting staff and services does not promote growth."
According to Ms Dobie, the council was over-regulated in comparison to neighbouring shires.
"This is a culmination of poor culture and poor communication," she said.
"The high rates are a concern - I must admit I was shocked when I read the schedule of rates and charges."
The mayoral candidate also pushed for the return of the futures board and closer relationships with the chambers of commerce.
When asked whether she supported divisions on the Southern Downs, Ms Dobie said she did not.
Instead she believed councillors should "roam freely".
THE fourth candidate in the mayoral race may be little known, but he's not afraid to voice his opinions.
Glen Aplin resident Jay Nauss used his address to the Chamber of Commerce to introduce himself and take aim at all three levels of government in Australia.
The mayoral candidate listed rates and cutting costs as his priorities.
"We can't keep jacking the cost of rates up," he said.
"The rates are unsustainable, costs to businesses are unsustainable, and council charges are onerous.
"We have to cut costs but we can't do it immediately - it needs to be done over a few years."
He described the council's cost increases as "debt driven" and said council charges were at the point of being "extortionist".
"We can't afford to keep ripping people off and spending and taxing," he said.
Mr Nauss outlined what his first step would be if he were elected mayor.
"I'd get all the heads of departments together and say how can you cut costs," he said.
While Mr Nauss said he didn't have local government experience, he spoke of working in 70 jobs and his 20 years in the Australian Army.
"I've done a lot of things, seen a lot of things and read a lot of things," he said.
Unlike Ms Dobie, Mr Nauss said he supported divisional representation for councillors.
"We need councillors to represent geographical areas," he said.