Election candidates go head to head

ELECTION FORUM

Karlie Brady

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Your candidates (L-R): Lisa Scomazzon, Peter McKeown, Steve Cruickshank, Natalie Johnson, Julia Leu, Michael Kerr, Kym Rowley, and Terry Melchert. Absent: Roy Zammataro, Abigail Noli, and Bruce Clarke. Image: Karlie Brady.
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With just under three weeks until the Douglas Shire heads to the polls the mayoral and councillor candidates had the opportunity to present themselves to the community.

Over 140 people packed into the Mossman Bowls Club on Saturday to meet the candidates, hosted by the Douglas Shire Ratepayers' Association (DSRA).

The two mayoral candidates, Julia Leu and Michael Kerr were in attendance along with councillor candidates Natalie Johnson, Steve Cruickshank, Peter McKeown, Terry Melchert, Kym Rowley, and Lisa Scomazzon.

Absent was incumbent Councillors Roy Zammataro and Abigail Noli, along with Bruce Clarke who had taken ill.

The candidates were all given the chance to describe their running platforms and answer questions.

High rate costs was an issue raised by many of the candidates, gaining applauses from the crowd.

Multiple candidates also addressed ideas on sustainable development and expressed the need to grow the Shire. Water security and better council expenditures were also high on many candidates lists.

See the full election forum and each candidate’s address in the video below:


The two mayoral candidates were last to address the crowd with Michael Kerr calling for change.

“Recent conversations I have had with many locals have made me realise there is an attitude for change in the way that Council operates, which is why I have chosen to run for mayor,” he said.

“It has also been made very clear to me that you want a mayor who consults a lot more with locals and is more responsive to local needs. A mayor who offers greater accountability to the actions of Council and a mayor who is more transparent in the way Council goes about its business.”

If elected, Mr Kerr, said his aim would be to create policies focussing on growing the local economy including opening the door to new industries and sustainable development while also supporting existing sectors like tourism and agriculture.

“Let me be very clear, the Council I lead will not see achieving sustainable development and looking after the environment as mutually exclusive, it is not an either-or kind of thing we can do both and we will.

“The fact is our economy has gone backwards, our gross regional product has fallen, the number of full time or equivalent jobs has dropped, council approvals have almost halved and rates continue to have a higher than normal yearly increase,” he said.

When it was Julia Leu’s turn, she refuted much of what had been said before her by other candidates about the Council under her lead.

“There has been a lot of talk about rates and I have heard a lot of inaccurate figures, false claims and irrelevant statements showing that most do not have any understanding of how we determine rates and how we strike a budget in Council,” she said.

“The fact is that this Council under my leadership over the past six years has had very good economic management. General rates last year increased by only 1.8 per cent, that is the lowest in living memory.

Ms Leu spoke about how under her leadership Council is in surplus coming back after a six million dollar deficit following de-amalgamation from Cairns.

“So due to good finical management we have paid off this Cairns debt and that means we have been able to keep rates low in comparison to many other shires around,” she said.

Ms Leu added she was proud of her record over the last six years in gaining well over $150 million in grants for projects around the Shire that have then not had to be funded by ratepayers, including advocating for funding for the Mossman Mill.

“Ratepayers and residents need the certainty of a mayor with a proven track record of strong economic management, not people who complain, make false claims, sprout economic nonsense and have no real solutions or experience to successfully lead the Douglas Shire Council,” Ms Leu said.


Newsport
conducted a preferred mayoral poll on Friday to determine where voters sat before the election forum.

Of the 354 votes, 68 per cent were in favour of Michael Kerr.

Another poll will be held in the lead up to the election to see if the candidates campaigning efforts have made any changes to voters preferences.

Early voting commences next week, Monday 16 March, while election day is Saturday 28 March.


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