Gemfields residents grill candidates

Central Highlands council candidates front up to Gemfields residents’ questions and concerns.
Central Highlands council candidates front up to Gemfields residents’ questions and concerns.

GEMFIELDS residents put the hard questions on Central Highlands council candidates at the first public forum last week, demanding to know what their civil servants would do for them.

About 50 people from Rubyvale, Sapphire, Anakie and the Willows came together at the Rubyvale Town Hall on Thursday to paint a clear picture of issues they wanted addressed.

But it was a slow start to the night as 20 of the 23 candidates introduced themselves to constituents which for most council hopefuls live at least 100km away from.

The most commonly used phrase during the five-minute segment was, "for those of you who don't know me", while sitting councillors, including current CHRC deputy mayor Paul Bell, resorted to the phrase, "as you all know".

The audience sat quietly during the introductions, but it was merely the calm before the storm.

As the floor opened up to questions from voters, few - if any - held back.

"I want to know why we pay $5 per 1000L of water while the Sunshine Coast pays only about $0.50 per 1000L of water," Sapphire resident Garnet Ross demanded.

Kev Cracknell was the first to respond and declared, if elected, he would review the situation and said he understood the issue, having faced a similar one in Blackwater.

But Cr Paul Bell gave the most insight, referring to Federal law which mandated the price local governments must charge for water - a point supported by fellow councillor Kerry Hayes.

"We've got plenty of good council staff, and we get it right most of the time," Cr Hayes defended.

Rubyvale resident Cliff Mortley said the Gemfields, which generates $100 million in tourism each year, was home to 97 different nationalities and called on the CHRC to allocate more expenditure be returned to the region.

Candidate Kevin Pickersgill used the opportunity to question why the Central Highlands was not split into divisions to ensure equal representation across one of Queensland's largest local governments.

"It (divisions) should have been mandatory," Mr Pickersgill said to rousing applause


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