Four things we learnt from Monto’s candidate evening
DESPITE the growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic facing the world right now, we must not forget that local government elections are just around the corner.
Candidates across six divisions in the North Burnett are competing against one another for the top job in their district.
The Monto Ratepayers and District Association held their candidates evening on Monday at the Monto Shire Hall.
Candidates Melinda Jones (Division 1), Peter Warren (Division 1), Leslie Hotz (Division 2), Marshall Langston (Division 2) and Glen Martin (Division 6) attended the evening.
Incumbent councillors Paul Lobegeier (Division 1) and Peter Webster (Division 2) withdrew from the event earlier that day.
Residents quizzed the five potential councillors about the issues important to them, to discover what their priorities would be if they were elected.
Here are the four key issues raised at the meet the candidates evening.
1. Monto Mt Perry Rd
Several residents voiced their concerns regarding the state of Monto Mt Perry Rd, an issue that has plagued residents for years.
Mr Warren told the crowd he believed it was a bad road, and said he had made inquiries about it.
"As I understand, the council are paid by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, but that is something we'll have to keep an eye on it," Mr Warren said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Jones stressed the importance of not only fixing the road, but fixing Gladstone Rd as well, and making it a priority.
She said there was a range of complexities regarding the roads, but would rally councillors together to make sure something was done.
Mr Hotz said while there were no guarantees in life, his aim would be to open up the lines of communication with the state and federal governments.
"It's Main Roads, and southeast Queensland we have to deal with," Mr Hotz said.
"I'm very familiar with the road, and yes it's a high priority, but it's a State Government issue."
Mr Langston said he believed the fixing of Monto Mt Perry Rd was one vote away from being completed, but assured the audience he would get on top of it.
MRDA's Trevor Gleeson also discussed the Monto Mt Perry Rd issue and tendered a letter to the meeting from the resident doctor of Monto's Family Practice.
This letter proposed work should be completed on the road to help elderly patients travel to Bundaberg for medical reasons.
Mr Martin added he would work toward addressing the state of Monto Mt Perry Rd by working with the council and community to find a solution.
2. Lack of council funds
One resident questioned the employment strategies used by the North Burnett Regional Council.
In his question, he queried why after amalgamation, the council had the same number of workers, but less money.
He believed that facilities, roads, and infrastructure were suffering because of this.
Mr Hotz addressed the question by saying the state and federal governments had shifted every town's funding over the past few years.
"I believe that's where a lot of our funding went to, and that's why we have to go back to the federal and state governments to bargain with them to make out regions viable," Mr Hotz said.
"The State Government are shifting as much as they possibly can to the local government as well."
3. Economic development
In response to the closure of several shops in Monto recently, and the loss of employment opportunities in the area, some residents were curious as to what the candidates could to address the troubling trend.
Mr Martin responded by stating the world was in a state of financial stress.
"Creating employment in regions, creating water pipelines, sawmills, opening up farms and dairies that have shut down," Mr Martin said.
"If they were to give the money to industry, it will create jobs, it will bring people back to our towns."
He went on to encourage further lobbying to the Federal Government to ensure this was implemented.
4. Bringing services back to town
One resident wanted to see her candidates fight to bring services back into the town, rather than being told no.
Mr Warren fielded the question by saying there were a lot of regional areas which had lost industry.
"That has led to the decline in our population, the town's getting smaller, and we're losing services we shouldn't be losing," he said.
"But we will have a strong voice in council if I'm elected, I will be pursuing these things."
He cited issues of employment for young and mature-aged students, and said he would work with the community to address the issues.
Mrs Jones then answered the question, and said work needed to be done to attract businesses and industries to the area.
"Not only do we have a lot of logging trucks travelling through, we have a massive amount of pigs being carted through our community," she said.
"I've been approached by those in the community to look at what industry partners could come into the town.
"It's not just about lobbying state and federal governments, but what private industries can come in and be started."
Mr Hotz then tackled the question, and said the greatest role of a councillor was developing policy.
"Once the policy is developed, then everyone is treated equally, whether it's industry, or mowing footpaths or cattle on the road," he said.
Without policy and local laws, Mr Hotz said council could not move anywhere, and an individual councillor could not do anything without the support of the whole council.
"Policy and local law needs to be enacted for it to be changed," he said.