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Council candidates 2019

DENMARK

ALL CANDIDATES were sent a list of four questions and asked to respond in no more than 300 words.
The responses below are grouped by ward, but otherwise appear in the order in which they were received by The Voice. Some have been edited for brevity and clarity.

TOWN WARD

Cr CEINWEN GEARON

Sitting member

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I been a shire councillor since October 2015, becoming deputy shire president and then, in 2016, being elected shire president. Prior to becoming a councillor I regularly attended council meetings, advocating for the various community groups that I was involved in.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

The two major challenges facing council are interrelated – working to keep rate rises to a minimum while maintaining assets in line with community expectations, and ensuring that key projects proceed. This is a fine balancing act.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

The only way to deal with these challenges is by having a conversation with the community to clearly identify their priorities, and ensuring that efficiencies are sought and maintained. Over the past three years the shire administration has been restructured to meet community needs. As a result salaries as a proportion of revenue are at the lowest level they have been for a number of years. This needs to continue and be improved on.

What is your most significant achievement during your term as a councillor?

Supporting the administration to implement the Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework. Whilst not very sexy or visible to the community, the IPRF is integral to ensuring that the Shire of Denmark has robust governance and financial structures. A comprehensive engagement process with the community led to the development of the Strategic Community Plan. It may come as a surprise to the community but this document is constantly used by the shire administration to guide their work.

NELSON BLAKE GILMOUR

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

My similar experiences are a stint with Parliamentary Services of Aotearoa (NZ) in 2017 and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Guaranteeing essential public services.
  2. Leading on-the-ground adaptation to our climate emergency.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

By updating our Local Planning Strategy, ensuring that the Asset Maintenance Plan is delivered super well, and ensuring that the climate emergency declaration feeds into and guides all shire decisions and operations. Creative resilience will also be crucial.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

Four, but I read all the minutes. (I’m a drama tutor at Southern Edge Arts on Tuesday evenings but if I’m elected council will take priority.)

MICHAEL CRANNY

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I began work in local government in 1980, serving on the Shire of Warringah’s traffic committee and various parks and reserves committees. In the mid eighties I served at Leichhardt Municipal council managing the town halls and the development control unit. In the late eighties I served the Mornington Shire council in the Gulf of Carpenteria as deputy shire clerk. In the early nineties I served as administrative services coordinator at Waverley council, then for a decade I served at Blacktown City council in various administrative, governance and procurement activities. I then joined the City of Belmont, in procurement and governance. Since moving to Denmark I have become involved with the Denmark Homeless Project and have prepared a detailed proposal for the Shire’s consideration.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. The excellent surveys and bus trial organised through the CRC deserve acknowledgement for the important community service that it is. The early days of any new service are critical to success. The shire, if called upon, can offer more than in-principle support. Support can come by way of promotion and access to shire resources.
  2. Shire water supplies are very low due to dry conditions. The shire can play a proactive role, with consideration given to attractive incentives for more onsite water retention throughout the shire. Shire policy needs to spell out what services it may offer, to encourage more rainwater tanks and how their water quality can be kept to a high standard.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

Discussed above.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

None

GEOFF BOWLEY

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

My work as a senior federal government manager for 35 years, roles on local regional development, a Denmark independent school board, and chairmanship of a Great Southern not-for-profit youth support group demonstrate my capacity to be an effective councillor.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Given that we have just had two consecutive rate rises well in excess of CPI increases, with the prospect of similar increases for 20 more years, I believe that council needs to radically change the way the annual rates and budget process is managed and communicated to residents and ratepayers.
  2. The long-overdue review of Denmark’s Local Planning Strategy must be urgently implemented, to ensure that we can continue to develop our community in an orderly and sustainable manner.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. Stock standard bureaucratic notices giving the community 21 days to comment on rates without any detail must stop. I believe that council should, as it goes through the budget and rate setting process, engage our community with timely, real and useful information that builds a partnership around the critical task of funding Denmark’s future. There are alternative methods used by other councils that should be discussed with our community.
  2. Planning is a complex process that is too often ignored by us all until we are confronted by a major dispute. More effective engagement, and hence less conflict, should be possible by adopting interactive technologies to regularly raise ‘hot’ issues, such as GetUp and SumOfUs provide. Council’s ward structure does not, in my opinion, operate effectively and could be used to create more grassroots communication on important topics such as the LPS review.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

My initial thought was to say “Too many!” But seriously, I have attended, and not just for public question times, most formal council meeting for several years. I have also attended other formal council meetings like the annual ratepayers’ meetings where, sadly, the public attendees would have fitted into the proverbial telephone box.

KELLI GILLIES

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I was privileged to serve as a Denmark councillor for five years, 2011-2016, representing the Great Southern region on a Water Corporation regional advisory committee and a local Water Corp Denmark Environment Risk Assessment Reference Group, which was a key player in advocating for a water recycling scheme for Denmark. I was chair of several council committees, and have leadership experience in the education sector.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Reinstatement of the recycled water scheme, through lobbying the State government to reinstate R4R funding. Access to water is the greatest issue that we collectively face. With the recent announcement by Water Corp to secure drinking water supplies for Denmark, council is in a prime position to advocate for reinstatement of the funding for this shovel-ready project.
  2. I will not support the current thinking that 20 years at four percent is acceptable for rate rises, linked tightly to an Asset Management plan. Prosperity needs to come to the town, not just to the shire administration. I want us to develop a realistic, step-by-step growth plan to declare Denmark ‘open for your business’, to actively market our town as a destination for lifestyle relocation and businesses experiencing growth to maximise mutual opportunities. This would build on the town’s strengths, not take away from the values and vibe of our country town. Incentivised land purchase, low rates and relocation of business to Denmark that ultimately provide employment are long overdue.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

Involve the community, develop stakeholder relationships; lobby state government; have shared language and vision in our pursuit of funding and sustainable prosperity.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

Occasionally however, modern technology has allowed me to remain up to date with Council issues, I actively read the agenda, minutes and engage in community discussion.

CLEM WRIGHT

New candidate

(Mr Wright declined to respond to our questions in the standardised format requested. –Ed)

SCOTSDALE/SHADFORTH WARD

Cr KINGSLEY GIBSON

Sitting member

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I spent 12 years as a councillor at the Shire of Capel before moving to Denmark six years ago. I have now served two years on the Denmark council. In that combined time I have served on many committees, including state and regional ones, and have particular interests and experience in planning, sustainability and agriculture.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Firstly, to finish off the last elements of the Integrated Planning and Reporting Framework. The work already done towards this has informed many decisions about what assets are a priority for maintenance – such as numerous roads – as well as those which may need replacing soon, are beyond repair or no longer needed.
  2. Council needs to focus as an organisation on efficiency and clever solutions. For example, we should avoid having to build a second sports oval at huge cost, by coming to a shared-use arrangement with the high school oval. We should continue to invest in technologies such as LED lights at the rec centre and oval, which pay for themselves quickly and bring ongoing environmental and financial benefits

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

The greatest asset we have is our staff. To attract and keep good staff, council needs to model respectful, carefully reasoned and totally ethical behaviour – which I believe we have. We also need to provide the policy and strategic direction so that staff have a clear and constant path to follow. During my time so far on council we have been faithful to the Community Strategic Plan, which means that we are following the direction the community has given us. I think we largely just need to hold the course.

What is your most significant achievement during your term as a councillor?

Moving the successful motion to get the State government to spend the East River road bridge money on Greens Pool, and moving the successful motion that council declare a climate emergency and set emissions reduction targets for the organisation. Maintaining the benefit of all community interests throughout the shire has been my constant priority

Cr JAN LEWIS

Sitting member

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I have been a Denmark shire councillor since 2011 with a background in small business but little familiarity with local government. Over time and having sat on numerous committees and working groups, attended training and workshops on a broad variety of topics, I have gained a good all-round understanding of the diverse issues that councillors face.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. The Local Planning Strategy and Town Planning Scheme are guiding documents that are both long overdue for review.
  2. No councillor wants to increase rates – it’s a balance between community expectations and the cost of building and maintaining assets, and providing services.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. To achieve the best possible outcome it is critically important that council and the community are fully involved.
  2. Keeping rate rises to a minimum will centre on finding efficiencies, service provision expectations and rationalisation of assets. These discussions can now be informed by documents such as the Asset Management Plan and Long Term Financial Plan that we have been working on these past three years.

What is your most significant achievement during your term as a councillor?

Thanks to the work predominantly done by shire staff, council now has a robust set of plans to guide Denmark into the future – we know what our assets are, their value and condition, and can determine that those which are valued by our community are maintained. I am also glad that I persisted in pushing for a ban on single-use plastic bags and helium balloons at events in our shire.

STEVE JONES

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I am currently chair of the Denmark Ag College board and a board member of the Denmark Primary school but my strength, if elected, lies in my trade-turned-executive career. Prior to moving to Denmark I was responsible for a staff of 200, and $100m-plus of projects and asset management. The industries that I serviced had stringent federal and state regulations and compliance.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. The financial management required to deliver the Denmark Strategic Community Plan without imposing an ever-increasing burden on our ratepayers.
  2. To make a worthy and real contribution to addressing climate change at a local level that is practical and doesn’t add additional cost to ratepayers who can’t afford it.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. It is impossible to fairly answer how council should address its financial management from the outside, but if elected I will quickly and thoroughly familiarise myself with this detail before proposing solutions. I’m confident that my track record of solving complex issues will provide guidance.
  2. In 2014 the federal government allocated $2.55-billion for an emissions reductions fund. In 2019 the Climate Solutions fund provided $2b, bringing the total to $4.55b. A business-focused council will support our local farmers, businesses and indigenous community, and access funding to enable revegetation and soil carbon sequestration projects.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

My first was this month! But don’t hold that against me – it means I have no baggage. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of quickly establishing an understanding of the due process and governance required by the relevant acts and regulations.

RICHARD WINTER

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

My experience relates to website searches, phonecalls and meetings with Denmark shire staff over the past 18 months as part of the process of building an energy efficient house in Hay (development application/approval, BAL, water treatment, pool installation, soil compaction). As a regular attendee of Denmark Ratepayers and Residents Association meetings, I have been briefed by the Denmark CEO, key staff and councillors on the shire’s strategic priorities and direction over the next ten years. Reading of shire minutes has kept me abreast of key issues resonating with stakeholders and members of the community.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Water management and conservation (reduce use of corporate scheme water by 15 percent by 2022 to support the Water Corporation’s target of a 15 percent reduction in scheme water use by 2030.
  2. Asset management and renewal ($24-million of assets in poor/very poor condition, according to shire CEO, 3/9/19 Council Elections Presentation).

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. Reducing residential scheme water-use targets to or below 150kl per household annually to 2022 (current target of 161kl is based on high annual water-use targets). Stricter guidelines and rules on new residential developments, incorporating watertanks and greywater systems. More regular updates to tenants and landowners of water-use and efficiency measures. Highlighting the water-use and staffing costs associated with the public pool proposal.
  2. Continual monitoring of assets in poor condition (economic-socialenvironmental risk analysis, not just the financial cost of asset renewal) and possible revision of Asset Management and Corporate Business Plans if assets deteriorate more quickly than expected.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

Four.

KEN COURT

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I have been involved in federal, state and local government for 50 years. I have also been a director on over 20 companies and am still on the board of several schools and charities.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

Rates and water: a budget review to live within rate increases of close to zero, and approach state and commonwealth government for funding of a comprehensive water supply system, making dams redundant and let the rivers run free.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. Desalination water treatment plant.
  2. Required water distribution infrastructure, Albany to Walpole.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

One.

BELINDA ROWLAND

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I would bring business, local government experience and academic qualifications to council. My qualifications include a Diploma in Local Government, the West Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) president’s scholarship award 2014, and I am a WALGA Alumni member. I served as an elected member from 2011-2015. In my personal and professional life I am active in community organisations such as RSL secretary, bushfire brigade and Lions, and as a Co-op board director.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. The rates are too high at four percent for 20 years. I do not support the increase and will put the brakes on gouging the ratepayer for budget blowouts in these economic times. Many in our community are on fixed and low incomes.
  2. The John Clarke bandstand, there was no consultation, I will push for a balanced approach based on community consultation and collaboration, to find positive outcomes that are acceptable for the community. Investment in these infrastructure assets through securing government grants.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. To use strong fiscal financial management in the budget process in the short and long-term financial plan, by being fair in the rating system, combined with the economic situation being the CPI inflation basics.
  2. Positive community-driven improvement, I would like to form a group to retain cultural heritage/ rebuild the bandstand. To find a way forward through securing grant funding for our assets. Many community members have come forward to assist.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

I have continually kept informed via the councillors, shire website information, voting, the council agendas, attached reports, minutes for council meetings and media releases.

KENT/NORNALUP WARD

Cr JANINE PHILLIPS

Sitting member

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I have served on council since the extraordinary election in 2016, following the resignations of KentNornalup councillors Kelli Gillies and Roger Seeney. I have represented council on many working groups and committees. For 15 years I was the WA Farmers Federation’s co-ordinator for the Lower South West and Blackwood zones, and a board member of Denmark Tourism Inc. Our family property lies in a RAMSAR-listed Wetland of World Significance, so I understand environmental issues.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Implementing the Long Term Financial Plan and Asset Management Plan, to repair and maintain assets that have been neglected, while still supporting projects that the community values.
  2. The need to be diligent in managing council’s finances.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

The first issue is self-evident but the need to be fiscally diligent needs experienced councillors and innovative thinking. Much has been said about this year’s rate increase and the possibility of similar increases for the next 20 years. I don’t accept that. To reduce the rate burden we need to identify where costs can be avoided and efficiencies gained. If there are non-performing assets that don’t benefit the community they may have to go.

What is your most significant achievement during your term as a councillor?

When I came to council it was awash with discontent, disharmony and distrust. The chaos wrought and the cost to ratepayers of funding salary payouts, legal advice and two by-elections was considerable. The past three years have brought stability and integrity to council. We made some hard decisions, consulted with the community to formulate the Strategic Community Plan, and have achieved the integrated planning needed to guide the shire’s future direction. I believe I have helped bring balance, perspective and advocacy to council, and raised awareness of issues in my ward.

RAY BENSON

New candidate

What is your relevant local government or similar experience?

I have worked in many management and administration roles but have not been on council previously.

What do you see as the two most important issues that council needs to address in the next 12 to 24 months?

  1. Shire destruction of Irwin inlet.
  2. Rate hikes and budget blowouts.

How do you believe that council should address those issues?

  1. The opening of the Irwin inlet for the past two years conducted by the shire have been butchered. The current protocol must be overturned and a commonsense approach brought back to protect the health of the Inlet. Short-term we cannot repair the damage already done by consecutive low openings, but we can prevent more damage occurring. Moving forward the health and care of all shire waterways need to be reviewed.
  2. Rate hikes are an issue for most residents, and given the current financial climate work needs to be done to find ways for the shire to balance the budget without constantly dipping into ratepayers’ pockets.

How many council meetings have you attended during the past 12 months?

Due to my current work role I have been more of an outside follower of shire activities, having been required to work nights. This is something with the support of my employer, Denmark Ag College if elected I can change with an adjustment of rosters. In many ways I see advantages in having a clear and open view to council operations – no past prejudice or preconceived ideas, just a fresh approach to attack the issues on behalf of the people who choose to elect me.

Care to comment?