Mayoral candidate Clare Stewart and Mayor Tony Wellington.
Mayoral candidate Clare Stewart and Mayor Tony Wellington.

Virus makes Noosa election a whole new ball game

UP UNTIL a couple of weeks ago Noosa looked like being overtaken by a virulent strain of local politics, a debilitating "them against us" bug, but coronavirus has to a large extent swept that to one side.

Of course the underlying animosities between the two distinct opposing camps led by incumbent Tony Wellington and his formidable challenger Clare Stewart remain still very much 'alive', but just not as much in play beyond the sometimes murky world of social media.

It's just that these tough times have seen many of us sweep aside much of the election sniping from the sidelines as witnessed by repeated complaints to the Independent Council Election Observer.

Minds have been more occupied about fears for jobs and the increasingly invasive pandemic closing off borders and stopping Noosa's lifeblood of tourism, in its tracks.

When would anyone have thought they would live to see the day a premier of Queensland would tell southerners and even our own city slickers to stay away from our rich coastal offerings?

The word from the Electoral Commission of Queensland is that voters everywhere have been rushing to the pre-polling booth or filling out postal votes to avoid the March 28 voting queues where all will be urge to line up 1.5m apart and bring their own pencil to mark their mark against their preferred candidates.

Mayor Wellington is very much standing on his record of the past years and started off the campaign citing Noosa's economic growth being far better that the state average and would have loved to have promised "more of the same" steady as you go growth.

But now that our billion tourism turnover is about to take a bruising, financial bath, all bets are off. Cr Wellington's best card to play now is these tough times need a trusted, proven leader, someone who has helped us come through the fires before and will protect the new Noosa Plan and our lifestyle.

It's the classic "safe pair of hands" pitch.

Noosa Council prepolling is under way.
Noosa Council prepolling is under way.

One of the mayor's council allies Cr Brian Stockwell has warned repeatedly of an element in this election who want to overturn Noosa's hard-won planning values and pave the way for development without the checks and balances.

Ms Stewart and a group of seemingly like-minded candidates like Future Noosa are pushing hard on this council being out of touch, especially with the business sector which she is a part of. They have accused the council for failing to listen on concerns over signage, short-stay lettings, ignoring the plight of the under resourced hinterland and criticised council's bushfire management practices.

They are offering a new broom approach, and while Ms Stewart has no previous experience in local politics, has run a slick and solid grassroots campaign of getting out and about with her ear to the ground.

This was evidenced by 30 coffees in 30 days listening tour early in the campaign, as her yellow-clad Clare for Mayor supporters enthusiastically cheered on her every word at the meet the candidates meetings which went ahead before the virus scare ended that avenue of Noosa democracy at work.

Ms Stewart has done a good job of offering herself to the Noosa community as a genuine alternative rather than more of the same.

 

Noosa awaits its new council.
Noosa awaits its new council.

 

Her message is clear and simple: "Let's return Noosa to the people the people of the shire".

"My leadership will create a healthy, dynamic Noosa Council with a culture that effectively supports our organisation, environment, and our community."

She is openly endorsing her six councillor choices: Amelia Lorentson, Andrew Squires, David Fletcher, Karen Finzel, Karen Cook-Langdon and Patrick Lloyd.

Cr Wellington for his part has put forward a list of 10 candidates "who appreciate Noosa's elemental differences and who understand that the elements that define Noosa underpin our economy, lifestyle and environment."

They are Frank Wilkie, Brian Stockwell, Phil Moran Tom Wegener, Yanni Van Zigl, Meghan Halverson, Alan Lander, Julien Cahn, Joe Jurisevic and Janet Kake.

He is leaving it up to Noosa voters to decide their best six in this first six past the post contest for candidates.

And that is the beauty of the Noosa electorate. For many years it has shown time and time again it remains an informed community of discerning voters who are rarely fooled by flim-flam campaigns.

Back in 2016, almost 32,000 locals voted in a tight contest between two worthy adversaries in Cr Wellington and his then fellow councillor and now Noosa MP Sandy Bolton. This was knife-edge result with the mayor scraping in with 51.42 per cent of the vote to Ms Bolton 48. 58.

Whether this will be a clear-cut result or another edge of the seat ride is now up to all of you who cast your votes for the future of a shaky Noosa, which is now entering very rough economic waters.