What the people want

Community members were able to speak with each candidate at the Warwick Chamber of Commerce Speed Dating event. Picture: LUCY WALDRON

By Lucy Waldron

Community members and council candidates gathered at the Meet Your Councillor Speed Dating event hosted by the Warwick Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday 20 February to listen and learn. Amidst the buzz of the gathering, Warwick-Stanthorpe Today seized the opportunity to ask attendees about their hopes for the upcoming council’s tenure.

Barbara Bokenham had a lengthy chat with an incumbent councillor, where she discussed the problem of homelessness and the importance of the arts.

“I think trying to speak the money more equitably by say opening up grants will help a lot of the community groups survive and with volunteers becoming even more scarce, more funding will be able to help,” Barbara said.

Bill Bowen and John Henry stood on the outskirts of the room, scouting out who they may talk to next and in the meantime they answered the question.

“Progress and more delegation to working teams, it is all about delegation of power to the workforce, I think something like that would be very beneficial,” Bill said.

John backed Bill’s answer up with an anecdote.

“The council brought all their machinery out to clean our drains then up 10 or 15 metres the road shoulders are in dreadful condition, even though they have all the equipment there they did not fix it, they just packed up and left,” John said.

Barbara and Les Meiklejohn kept their answers short and straight to the point, they knew what they wanted and they were here to see if any of the candidates would provide.

“Love, peace and harmony,” Les said.

“They need to start working together, not doing whatever it is they have been doing,” Barbara said.

Bette Bonney, someone who is known to the community for her involvement in Jumpers and Jazz in July as well as Safehaven, hoped the new council would recognise the importance of events in the region.

“I am very keen to know if the new councillor and mayor will be interested in events across the region and if they recognise that [events] bring dollars to the region,” Bette said. “I think in the past some councillors have given the impression that events are not worth the effort but they do not understand the tourism they bring to the region as a whole.”

Lynn Collie said there were many problems and the councillors were wasting time and money with their fighting.

“There is also a problem with housing and homelessness that needs to be fixed,“ Lynn said. “Projects like the wind farm are bringing people into the area so the people that have lived there can’t get jobs, they have nowhere to live and then that forms health issue.

“This area has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country and something needs to be done about that.”

Doug Cutmore, someone who you may have seen marching with the Warwick Thistle Pipe Band, was there to see if the new candidates would be better than the current.

“I hope they bring a lot more harmony than what we have seen in the last two [councils], I have been in council for 20 years and we have never had a council like that, the disrespect is just shocking,” Doug said.

“I just want some people with some commonsense and human decency to run this place because the people here should never have been representing the public in my book.

“Our name outside is not the best because of it and that’s sad because we deserve better than that.”

Sue Hamlet, a member of the Women’s Advocacy and Action team (WAAT), was present for one reason and that was to see how council will implement strategic leadership.

“I hope that council will step up and strategically take leadership across the region around issues of domestic and family violence,” Sue said.

“We don’t expect them to do the work for it but to take leadership which means modelling that respectful communication and that means saying this is important to us as a community.

“At the moment this has been something people in a volunteer capacity have been trying to do and get services and networks set up over many years but there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done, not only is it just stopping domestic violence it is also about prevention education, awareness raising, changing of attitudes, that starts with all of us but imagine if our council took lead on that, wouldn’t that be amazing.”

After the mayoral and councillor candidates were given the chance to answer some questions that we sent in, everyone was allowed to mingle in a less formal setting. Still, Brenda and Sharman Parsons were undecided if they got what they wanted out of the evening.

For what Brenda hopes the new council will bring falls heavily on environmental sustainably.

“We hope they will do more on environmental sustainability issues in the district because while there is a sustainability officer we do not know what they do and would like to see it more,” Brenda said.

“As Indigenous people, we think one of the biggest things to have healthy people is to have healthy land and to be sustainable.”

While Sharman agreed, she had another hope also.

“There needs to be more long-term thinking and engagement with future generations, from an indigenous perspective we live in a very beautiful land that needs to be nurtured so the youth can connect and share it with the rest of the world,” Sharman said.

Among the 30 attendees, these 11 voices reflect a spectrum of expectations, all eager to see their aspirations reflected in the actions of their elected representatives come voting day.