ELECTED: Central Highlands Regional Councillor Gai Sypher.
ELECTED: Central Highlands Regional Councillor Gai Sypher. Kelly Butterworth

By-election votes have been tallied

SHE'S ready to "hit the ground running”, is not afraid to tackle issues at State and Federal government levels, and is dedicated to increasing tourism and population levels in the Central Highlands.

Capella resident Gai Sypher was yesterday declared the victor of the Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC) by-election ahead of eight other hopefuls and she's keen "to start connecting with my communities”.

Ms Sypher said yesterday she would be legally sworn-in by the end of today and there would be an official public swearing-in ceremony for her new position as full-time councillor on October 24.

She said she had resigned from her position as campus co-ordinator with Central Queensland University where she has been employed for 18 years.

"It was sad to leave as I have worked across a wide range of roles here, but it is the right decision and I can support the university in many other ways.”

"The university is extremely important to the region and we're very privileged to have it. Any growth here is always going to be linked to education.”

Ms Sypher - who was a Central Highlands councillor for four years from 2012 - said she was disappointed last year in her unsuccessful bid for the position of mayor, and was looking forward to making a 100% commitment in her role as councillor.

"I'd like to see our population increase through the liveabiliy and wellbeing of our communities.”

The current trend in the region was for contract employment and casualisation of the workforce, she said. And while jobs existed, the community needed improved facilities, resources and services across sectors including aged care, health, sporting and recreational to entice people to remain.

"Local government can play a huge role in advocating for services outside our core areas of business.

"We've got a receding community so we need to grow our population. We can't survive with skeleton populations. We have lost the sense of community and if you don't have a permanent workforce or permanent population, you simply exist, There's no incentive for young people to stay here and older people can't stay because there's no aged care facilities.” she said.

Also passionate about the issue of accountability for councillors - an area she said has been addressed through steering committees and portfolios - Ms Sypher said she was "excited” to join the current council team.

Self-described as "a great compromiser” and a "people person”, she is an ardent advocate of community development and empowering people to come forward and promote their desires for their community.

"We need to start looking at social change and empowerment to drive our councils better. Council is there as a tool to get things done, but communities should be driving it,” she said.

"I'd like to play a role in educating people to be able to come up with their own strategies for the area. Everyone is part of our council, not just nine people.”

Ms Sypher is determined to boost tourism, and believes there are many opportunities to be embraced.

"One suggestion that has come through community consultations includes mountain bike trails and developing purpose-built trails for riders from inexperienced riders to competitive riders.

"Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing recreational sports in the world and we have some beautiful areas for mountain biking, so I'd like to continue to pursue that as one possibility.

"But it's really about what the people think. I'll drive whatever the community asks me to drive.”

She said the 62% voting turn-out for the by-election had been low "because people have lost faith and pride in their communities”.

"I'd like to turn this around by telling people what we do in council and what they need to do and how they can interact and connect with a councillor to get results for their communities.”

The regional by-election was held at the end of last month after the resignation of Councillor David Lacey and was conducted as a full postal ballot.

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