What the Noosa candidates night revealed

ONE mature-aged couple making their way out of the Noosa Meet the Candidates night in Noosaville summed up the previous couple of hours pretty well after watching 21 of the 22 Noosa Council candidates state their cases for election on March 28.

The man said: “There’s actually a lot of good candidates to choose from.”

To which his partner agreed, but she added an important rider.

“Some of them showed their true colours there tonight, it’s given me plenty to think about.”

Inside the Noosa Christian Outreach Centre, the competing forces for control of Noosa’s local government future were only too proud to fly their colours in what was a fairly civilised gathering.

Colours on show

There was a group dressed in the ‘Clare for Mayor’ T-shirts cheering on their mayoral candidate Clare Stewart like the political prize fight that this is.

And a solid showing of T-shirted locals declared their support to return Tony Wellington as mayor, while supporters of the group of three from Future Noosa wore their support proudly for Karen Finzel, Dave Fletcher and Andrew Squires.

The candidates turnout was strong with only Animal Justice Party contender Snezana Redford not turning up on the night for their one-minute address and more than an hour of questioning from moderator and Sunshine Coast Daily editor Nadja Fleet.

One of the take home messages of the night hosted by the Sunshine Coast Daily, the Noosa News and community residents groups was a line used by one of the candidate “performers” before a crowd of around 400.

Alan Lander advised voters: “This election, be careful for what you wish for and please be careful for what you vote for”.

Real estate agent and 11th-hour nomination for councillor, Greg Smith, a vocal advocate for council revisiting and reforming its short-term letting controls, was among the newcomers to make their case.

ELECTION FORUM: Noosa Council candidates address voters at a public forum. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa
ELECTION FORUM: Noosa Council candidates address voters at a public forum. Photo: Caitlin Zerafa

He revealed as part of the questions supplied to the Daily by residents, that his stance was not about any vested interest as his business did not handle holiday rentals or AirBNBs.

Local artist and candidate Yanni Van Zijl under questioning about any group allegiances declared she was proud to be a member of the Noosa Parks Association, while Noosa Landcare leader Phil Moran admitted to a previous NPA membership but said without this lobby group Noosa would have a highway running through its national park.

The Future Noosa candidates had nothing to declare in this regard, but Mr Fletcher was put on the spot by a direct question as to how he could guarantee to act and vote independently from his team.

He said this liaison was for the purposes of pooling election resources together only and “as soon as the election day comes up Future Noosa ceases”.

Hinterland in focus

Ms Finzel was asked if Future Noosa had the power to appoint a hinterland ombudsman as promised and said due process would have to be followed while Mr Squires said a proper assessment would need to be carried out in consultation with community.

Candidate and businessman Patrick Lloyd had a blunt message when asked what he would do to improve hinterland bus services, roads and pram and wheelchair access.

He said the council had already wasted $650,000 on footpath plans that could have gone into “real actual concrete footpaths” while in Cooroy, council was proposing a $5 million playground in a town that “doesn’t have a proper intersection”.

Mr Moran said there was a works program for hinterland road upgrades that was being rolled out, but candidate Amelia Lorenston said the issue was the hinterland was not receiving its fair share of resources.

Cr Wellington said the hinterland provided 22 per cent of the rate revenue and was provided with considerably more capital works than that.

“If you boiled it all down, the coast is subsidising the hinterland and the coast has never complained about that,” he said.

Ms Stewart was asked if she voted for Noosa’s de-amalgamation, and answered simply yes she did, while none of the council candidates put their hand up to say they would consider breaking Noosa’s “population cap”.

Cr Jess Glasgow seemed to have a seniors moment when asked about what were he plans for older people.

Noosa Election Forum 2020: Jess Glasgow at the microphone.
Noosa Election Forum 2020: Jess Glasgow at the microphone.

First he asked what was meant by older people, but then said there was some “exciting new … mind blank here … aged care facilities”. He said the town plan acknowledged the need more aged care and “we’ve adapted for it”.

Candidate Meghan Halverson when asked would she support a stand-alone arts centre said need to look further into the costs and how it would be developed before she could answer that.

Cr Joe Jurisevic said he supported the new Noosa Town Plan including short-term letting, however he admitted to having some concerns.

He thought short-team accommodation was one area where “we may have stepped too far”, but now that it was passed by council he would support this.

Mr Smith was asked what he would do to stop this short-term letting from ruining the social amenity of our communities, and said his problem was he did not consider enough thought and consultation had gone into this decision by council.

“I was amazed. What we need to do is a little more common sense (approach).”

Ms Stewart said in regard to the new plan there needs to be an economic impact assessment as this was a divisive issue that was not “black and white”.

Tewantin TAFE

Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie was asked about his intention on the old Tewantin TAFE site and said the council must the state’s offer before consider purchasing, and after public consultation the new council would make a decision on what was the most viable option.

Candidate Nathanael Ford said he “absolutely” agreed with making Hastings St a pedestrian friendly with traffic restricted to delivery vehicles, while candidate Tom Wegener said the street was only busy for a short period oat [peak times otherwise it was “absolutely wonderful”.

Asked about climate change, Cr Brian Stockwell said the day Peregian caught fire was the first time the fire conditions had been declared catastrophic in southeast Queensland and said Noosa need to do more to ensure our children did not grow up in fear.

Mr Lander said climate change was not a religion, it was a fact and there needed to be action from the grassroots up, while contender Julien Cahn said he believed in climate change and supports Zero Emissions Noosa because they are doing a good job on this front.

Tourists and development

Contender Janet Kake when asked whether she supported more tourists here, said this was one of Noosa’s two top industries, but she supported attracting alternative business to overcome negative impacts like coronavirus.

Candidate Karen Cook-Langdon did not believe in Noosa following the Sunshine Coast Council model of encouraging rapid development.

“I quite like the Noosa we’ve got,” she said.

In his pitch to voters, Cr Wellington played the “experience” card first up telling the packed house: “I’ve been representing the good people of Noosa for the past eight years first as a councillor on two different councils and then as a mayor.”

He also outlined his years of working on committees to win Noosa’s de-amalgamation from the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

“I think it’s important to know that last financial year your shire achieved greater than 5 per cent growth in GRP (gross regional product) compared to the state average of just over 1 per cent,” he said.

“Our economy hit $3 billion for the first time.”

He quoted data showing the jobs to residents ratio in Noosa Shire over the financial was 1.0.

“That means there were more jobs than there were resident workers.

“Over many years on council and off, I’ve worked tirelessly to protect Noosa Shire from the forces that seek to make Noosa Shire more like everywhere else.

“The forces would see Noosa become mediocre. I’m part of the reason why the Noosa you love today will go on being the Noosa you love go on being the Noosa you love tomorrow,” Cr Wellington said.

Noosa Election Forum 2020: Mayoral opponents Tony Wellington and Clare Stewart sat side-by-side.
Noosa Election Forum 2020: Mayoral opponents Tony Wellington and Clare Stewart sat side-by-side.

Ms Stewart made her case for election a pledge to work to protecting and enhancing “our environment that is so unique to all of us”.

“I will protect it for your children and for mine and for the generations to come,” Ms Stewart said.

“I will support and encourage small business right across our shire, protect existing jobs and foster new ones.”

“I will deliver on community services and infrastructure, I will build, not just plan for t hose bikeways, fix those footpaths, seal those roads, upgrade our basic facilities.

“I will employ a community engagement officer for the hinterland to be a force for those who feel neglect and under resourced.

“I will deliver on a proper river plan, I will engage in hazard reduction fire burns have more fire breaks, mitigate our potential loses and protect our community.

“I will work to find a solution for traffic and parking problems. I will lead a council that is productive, collaborative and cohesive.

She said if elected she would work in the residents’ best interests promising to return the council to the people of the shire.

Both addresses received rousing applause.