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Monday, 30 April 2012

The wash up.

Well the Maranoa has spoken for the next 4 years and it would appear very little has changed. It looks like all of the sitting councillors, with the exception on Jeff Watson have been returned with Ree Price in a battle with Peter Keegan for the last place.

It would also appear that David Schefe and Peter Flynn have made a successful return to local government with the only newcomer to local government being Cameron O’Niel.

I must say, I have been surprised by the outcome, as throughout my travels, I have heard what I thought was an overwhelming call for change in council. This has not occurred. It seems that in spite of the rhetoric, once the voters have been faced with the cold reality of who to choose, they have elected to retain the existing council instead of choosing a new one. Better the devil you know, I guess...

I am disappointed that I was not successful in my campaign, but I am not about to go and throw myself off a bridge over it. I guess I didn’t do a good enough job at selling myself to the electorate. Either that or they did not like what they saw. I feel that I can hold my head up as having run a clean and honest campaign. No-one can take that away from me.

Am I going to try again? Well, that’s 4 years away, a lot can happen so let’s just wait and see. The immediate challenge is seeing what the mood of the new council is like and how it functions. The complete dynamic has changed as a result of 3 different councillors being elected.

We must ensure that we hold them to their promises. Promises for open and accountable government, promises to implement portfolios, promises to decentralise some operations and promises to better engage with the community.

In closing, I wish to thank those people who decided to vote for me as your candidate on council. I am humbled and grateful for every vote I received. To those who did not vote for me, I’m sorry that I did not convince you of my merits as your chosen candidate. To my fellow candidates who did not get elected, thankyou for the competition and to those new councillors elected, congratulations on your success.

I’ll probably wind the blog down a bit now, maybe a name change? Maybe a change in focus? Maybe I might run a commentary on council? We’ll see what the future brings.

To all my loyal blog readers over the campaign, I thank you for giving me your time and reading what I had to say.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

It’s over to you....

This may well be my final Blog post prior to the close of voting. As a candidate, I’ve done my part in introducing myself to the voters of the shire and it’s over to you all to now make the decision. Only time will tell if I have been successful or not in selling myself to you.

Pre-poll scrutiny starts on Friday, with candidates scrutineers being allowed to observe the checking of declaration flaps against the Electoral roll, where the flap will be removed and the envelope placed in the ballot box. Following this, the envelopes will then be opened and both ballot papers removed and put into the ballot box, this is how the votes become anonymous.

Scrutineering of the ballot papers can begin with the counting of the votes, which should commence around 6.00pm on Saturday evening.

The Mayoral Ballots will be counted on Saturday night, with the Councillor ballots commencing on Sunday morning. Counting will continue up until the 8th of May, when the last of the postal ballots must have been received by the returning officer.

It feels like it has been a long campaign, I started gearing up my campaign in the end of January, at that stage, the election was set for the end of March. As you would recall, the then Premier decided to postpone the elections so that we could have a state election first. Throw in the Floods, Easter and a couple of other things and it feels like it has been a long run.

So, I’d like to thank everyone for taking an interest in the campaign so far, my next post will most likely be dealing with the results of the election. To the residents of the Maranoa region, I await your decision.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Make your vote count (and be counted)

I haven’t updated the blog for a couple of days, Mostly because I have had a horrible cold that came on me last Tuesday night and, well, I haven’t really felt that sociable.

Last Friday, I went to Roma to attend a stud cattle sale at the saleyards, which was well attended and sold quite well. The sale was over by lunchtime, and in the afternoon, I dropped in to see the returning officer for some information on the appointment of scrutineers and the conduct of the elections. We went on to discuss a great many issues, such as the auditing of Campaign bank accounts, Advertising disclosure and the whole postal voting process.

With around 2400 votes being returned so far, we went on to talking about what constitutes a formal vote and she advised that around 5 % of the votes returned to date where declared informal, and that is even before the ballot papers had been seen. This was as a result of removing the flap from the declaration envelope or not having the declarations witnessed.

As a result of that discussion, I have decided that this Blog post should be all about how to make your vote count.
·         On the MAYORAL Ballot Paper, put a “1” in the box of the candidate of your choice
·         On the COUNCILLOR ballot paper, number 1 to 8 the candidates of your choice (although I do hope your number 1 vote will be for yours truly!)
·         Put BOTH ballot papers in the DECLARATION envelope
·         Sign the declaration envelope
·         Have a witness complete and sign the witness section of the declaration envelope.
·         Put the declaration envelope in the Reply Paid envelope and post it.

A number of votes have been received with the flap missing from the declaration envelope. These votes cannot be counted as formal votes as the returning officer is unable to identify whose vote it is.  Or the vote has not been witnessed, and therefore the vote has not been verified.

Electors have gone to a great deal of trouble attending forums, listening to candidates, reading flyers and ads and in some cases, questioning the candidates on issues that they feel important only to throw it all away by failing to complete the declarations properly. They are completely unaware that their vote will not be counted.

Remember, every 4 years, you get the opportunity to pass your judgement on your local council, whether it be good, bad or indifferent, please don’t throw that opportunity away.

Also, a reminder, if you have not received your ballot paper or have spoilt it, you can contact Alison Moore at the Roma Community Arts Centre and Library and she can organise for a replacement. It will take a little while as there is some paperwork to complete.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Plant and Commercial activities

Today's post, If I am honest, is really 2 separate posts, but they are sort of related....

Plant and Equipment

Plant and equipment comprise a significant part of council’s asset base. It is important to maintain an efficient and effective plant fleet. Plant purchases represent a significant investment of council’s budget. We need to ensure that all plant purchases are well researched and carefully considered. Consideration should not only be given to WHAT the equipment is, but also HOW it would be deployed. Do we buy 3 smaller machines based around the shire, or do we buy 1 bigger one that does it quicker and can be moved around the shire as required?

Plant replacement must be organised to occur while a piece of equipment still holds some resale value and before it starts to incur increased maintenance costs. Sometimes this means that the best value for money machine when it is new, may not be the one that is cheapest to buy.

I would also like to see some exploration into the feasibility of purchasing a pavement stabiliser for use in rehabilitating deformed sealed shire roads and to explore the hire opportunities that may exist to other surrounding shires or for Main Roads work.

Commercial Enterprises

We must question, very carefully, the operation of Commercial enterprises operated by local government. They tend to have a history of being unsuccessful in the longer term for a number of reasons. Any new commercial enterprise should only be entered into afte careful and detailed consideration. Council should not be in the role of direct competition with existing or potential local businesses. Any commercial enterprise operated by council must be scrutinised carefully to ensure that they are, in fact, profitable.

Having said that, however, commercial enterprises should not be confused with private works. there is a role for council to fill the gap in a number instances, providing products and services from their day to day operation to the public that would otherwise be unavailable or unviable. An example of this is the manufacture of hydraulic hoses in the workshop or the provision of sand and garden loam.

Monday, 16 April 2012


Modern technology has opened up a whole new world of communications opportunities. There are now very few people who do not have some form of access to the internet with many of us carrying around devices in our pocket that can give us access to a world of information.

Council must embrace this technology and push to provide as much information as they can. While council currently maintains a website, it seems to be infrequently updated and missing a lot of important information. I was looking at a website for a council in South Australia recently, that allowed you to Pay your rates bill, register your dog, search the cemetery records, report a complaint and even search the library catalogue for a book.

Providing the information online removes the need for people to contact the customer service centres freeing up resources to deal with other issues. A good website is an employee that is at work 24 hours a day and 7 days per week.

I support wholeheartedly, the continued publication of the Bottle Tree Bulletin. I think that this wonderful community resource is an invaluable tool for the bringing of communities together from across the region. I do feel, however, that the council is not using this resource to its full potential. I would like to see more “operational” type information included in this publication. Information such as Planned works, such as where the road maintenance crews are working and where they are headed next, when the sewers are going to be fogged, the library opening hours and the like. Council is paying for the publication and they need to use it to its full potential.

Good communication is the key to ensuring that the public retains confidence in what council is doing. When people are unable to find out what is going on, is when the suspicion starts to creep into their minds. If there is nothing to hide, why hide it?

Sunday, 15 April 2012

ULDA - My View

Most people would be aware of the Clearview Rise development being undertaken by the ULDA in Roma near the hospital. The concept is a noble one, to provide additional housing in Roma to alleviate the pressure on the property market there.

I have concerns that the development has been allowed to occur without regard to the planning scheme for Roma town. Things such as minimum lot sizes and boundary clearances under the planning scheme have been disregarded. I fear that an area of High intensity housing within the Roma town area will lead to the creation of a number of social issues. No-one likes living in someone else’s pocket.

I am also disappointed that the ULDA has disregarded local businesses in awarding the tenders for the development and construction of Clearview Rise. Awarding these contracts to outside companies only goes to increase the pressure on Roma’s housing stocks in the short term.

The use of Outside contractors also provides no long term benefits for local tradesmen and suppliers. The ULDA has said that they didn’t ask local suppliers and contractors as they where currently working at capacity. I think it is a slap in the face to these businesses to be overlooked in this matter. If the work was there, there may have been opportunities for local businesses to grow or to form partnerships and joint ventures with other suppliers to fill the need. For the ULDA to ignore the local businesses in Roma in this regard is shameful.

ULDA will do little to solve the housing crisis in Roma, with the real underlying issue of housing affordability in Roma being the high cost of RENTAL accommodation. We cannot retain the long term residents and staff in industries outside the oil and gas sector when we have rental prices than in some cases can equal 100% of the take home wages of some workers. In many mining towns, the growth of local business is stifled through not being able to employ staff due to the high cost of housing.

We need to be looking for ways to address the accommodation shortage, while retaining as much of the existing value in the homes of residents as possible, we do not want to implement a rental solution that strips the resale value of the existing homes. Council as custodian of land stocks around the town is able to partner with housing providers to provide innovative solutions to this problem.

Roma and some of the surrounding towns need access to fixed rental housing for people outside of the resources sector, the ULDA will do nothing to address this problem.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Flood Mitigation

Given the recent flooding that has again affected the region, I think the time has come to progress the provision of flood monitoring and mitigation. If we had got on and installed some form of mitigation for Roma after the first flood, the savings in clean up costs would have gone a long way toward paying for it now.

Levees always cause a number of issues. Where do you put it? Who is inside and who is outside? What about the increased levels of water in homes outside the levee? These are all issues that as a community need to be worked out. Other mitigations such as channel enlargement, diversions and flood dams should also be explored.
Whether we install mitigation devices or not, we also need to explore the possibility of raising houses above flood level, or organising some form of land swap for land on higher ground. Perhaps some of the lower lying land could be used as public spaces such as sports fields and parks.
For those communities that are not subject to regular flooding, we need to have a look at the flood monitoring network and identify where “Holes” exist. For example there is only one monitoring station above Mitchell and it is 3 hours “river time” upstream. I have already expressed my desire to see the Forestvale station on the Maranoa Re-Automated, but I would like to see a complete overview with some meaningful community consultation to identify gaps across the entire Maranoa region.
For example, I have heard anecdotal reports of a need for better monitoring on the Coggoon River and also North of the Begonia area as well. 
The installation of flood monitoring is one of the issues that continually get bounced around between the 3 levels of Government with everyone wanting everyone else to do it. I think that Council must take a lead role in seeing that the Buck Passing stops and that SOMEONE just gets on and does it.