Brad Carter
Brad Carter

Who deserves your vote?

AS the clock ticks down to council elections at the end of March, The Bully is asking readers to give their verdict on the councillors who have steered Rockhampton Regional Council through its first, historic term.

All 10 divisional councillors and Mayor Brad Carter have indicated their names will be back on the ballot at election time.

So who are the community representatives who have most impressed the voters during the past four years? Which ones have earned their salaries and another chance to take their seats around the big table in Rockhampton City Hall's debating chamber?

It has been an eventful period, full of controversy and peppered with bruising rows, as councillors thrown together from Rockhampton, Mount Morgan, Gracemere and the Capricorn Coast strove to make the most of an amalgamation some of them were opposed to from the start.

Some of the issues they had to work through engendered passionate debate, and at times, in the heat of the verbal battle, there were episodes of unseemly name-calling.

A number of issues caused widespread vilification of the councillors. Chief among them was the controversial decision to prosecute Marlborough grazier Allen "Stinger" Rea for spending his own time and money to repair a section of the dirt road to Stanage Bay. The prosecution cost ratepayers more than $50,000 but resulted in just a $1000 fine for Mr Rea.

One of the first decisions the councillors made was to appoint Alastair Dawson as chief executive, ditching the highly respected Gary Stevenson. But Mr Dawson quit after just two years in charge.

There have been a number of high-profile staff who have departed in controversial or mysterious circumstances: the hugely popular parks and gardens boss Tom Wyatt, former Fitzroy CEO Lyle Harman and, recently, community services chief Tom Upton among them.

Councillors also became embroiled in a series of contentious matters including support for seven-day trading in Rockhampton, the possible privatisation of the airport, negotiating a long-term lease for Gracemere Saleyards, the planned expansion of Milbi Farm, the eviction of the Busby Group from its complex in Port Curtis and the costly and so far unresolved search for a new landfill site.

Most councillors have complained that their relationship with senior bureaucrats and the decision-making process in general, leaves a lot to be desired. There's the prospect of an expensive and far-reaching efficiency review once a new council is elected.

But perhaps the most damaging blow to the council's reputation has been the continuing sniping over the de-amalgamation cause championed by Cr Bill Ludwig who has often found himself at odds with his colleagues and, in particular the mayor.


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