Strong, confident leadership key as Michael Kerr launches mayoral challenge


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Cr Michael Kerr has officially announced he will run for Mayor in 2020. Image: Supplied.
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Campaigning on strong and confident leadership, first-term Douglas Shire Councillor Michael Kerr announced today he will be challenging Mayor Julia Leu at the March 28 Local Government election.

This is the second time Mayor Leu has been opposed since becoming Mayor after the 2014 de-amalgamation. In the 2016 election, Roy Weavers was unsuccessful in his bid to unseat her.

In what has been for months a best-kept-secret, Cr Kerr is putting everything on the line. Should he fail in his quest, he will lose his position on Council. According to local government legislation, councillors who unsuccessfully run for mayor, lose their seat at the councillors’ table.


Of the other councillors, Roy Zammataro has already said he will seek re-election; there is every indication Deputy Mayor Abigail Noli will run again, although she has yet to confirm; while David Carey has not indicated either way.

With his strong links to community which includes roles as President of the Homeless Animal Society and Boarding Kennels Inc., President of the Douglas Theatre Arts Group Inc., and his on-going involvement with many other local groups, Cr Kerr believes he is uniquely positioned to take on this exciting challenge.

"Being Mayor would be an absolute privilege, but is something earned through the respect of constituents, whom I am told want change and want a Mayor who understands their concerns and difficulties,” said Cr Kerr.

During his four years as a Councillor, Cr Kerr said he has become acutely aware of a steady increase in resident dissatisfaction accompanied by growing financial hardship; citing the distinct want for greater transparency and open community consultation in the way Council operates, led by a Mayor with a clear and balanced vision.

"While I’m people-focused and always ready to listen to local concerns, strong and confident leadership is important to ensure those concerns are actioned,” said Cr Kerr.

Cr Kerr said his vision for Douglas Shire is sensitive to its history and environment while being strong, bold and transformative.

“I believe we must create and swiftly enact a sustainable recovery, development and economic growth plan to return Douglas to somewhere people want to live and invest in with confidence.

“We must prioritise water security, road maintenance, and work harder to develop aesthetic and usable public gathering spaces; all which I believe are the basic foundations of council,” he said.

In terms of development and commerce, Cr Kerr is committed to a sensible approach based on need, not greed, with more affordable housing for aged and employees; a want to create non-hospitality jobs for year-round employment; construction of a safe swimming alternative in Port Douglas; a strong commitment to support the Botanical Gardens and powering the Daintree and investigate an economical yet reliable solar-powered regional transport system connecting Mossman, Port Douglas and Greater Douglas areas, are all high on his agenda.

Cr Kerr adamantly believes that Douglas Shire Council must find other revenue streams to prop up needed expenditures.

“I do not believe that the people of Douglas Shire would continue to accept any further substantial rate increases.” he said.

He also feels strongly about caring for the Shire’s ageing population, and is determined to facilitate ways of supporting them in and towards their retirement.

“Many have given so much, and now need affordable and suitable accommodation as they grow older.

Without this they are being forced to leave their communities. To leave the place they call home.”

Cr Kerr’s official election campaign will commence early next year as he still holds a Councillor position and meetings are still to be completed.

Kerr’s decision, meanwhile, comes hot on the heels of a decision announced today that the Independent Council Election Observer (ICEO) will review claims of false or deceptive campaign material, including claims made in public speeches and posted on social media sites in the lead up to the March election.

ICEO said in a statement that the conduct of candidates standing for Douglas Shire Council will be under the microscope with a new, Australian-first watchdog to expose fake news.

Candidates for councillor and mayor can lodge complaints with the ICEO to publish the findings of its fact-checking investigations on its website and social media platforms. 

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