The record-setting Rockhampton by-election will likely come down to the wire, as 17 characters - including now famous ‘Pineapple’ Hooper - fight for the seat.
The record-setting Rockhampton by-election will likely come down to the wire, as 17 characters - including now famous ‘Pineapple’ Hooper - fight for the seat.

Pineapple, councillors, fruit kings: Inside a big mayor race

The winner of the record-setting Rockhampton by-election will likely receive less primary votes than 'Pineapple' Hooper did last election, despite the government overturning legislation to keep the "accidental mayor" out of office.

Political analysts say Queensland's largest-ever mayoral election is anyone's game, predicting a handful of optional preferences may be all that separates the motley crew of 17 candidates - the most ever enrolled in an ECQ-managed mayoral election.

"The absence of (former mayor) Margaret Strelow from this race, and her very long established and huge, very recognisable profile … really leaves the field wide open," UQ political historian Dr Chris Salisbury said.

"Now there isn't a high-profile, established candidate - votes are going to be all over the place … opportunity's there for someone to come out of the blue or a relatively unknown candidate to win the contest."

Through two weeks of pre-polling, the beef capital has become a political colosseum with an assortment of characters - including current councillors, fruit kings and generational rugby personalities battling for the top position.

At the forefront is "regional maverick" Chris "Pineapple" Hooper, who Griffith political expert Dr Paul Williams deemed the likely favourite.

"People see him as a stand-up knockabout Queenslander … it's very much a part of the Australian ethos, especially the bush ethos," he said.

Rockhampton by-election favourite Chris “Pineapple” Hooper and his “flash” campaign vehicle. Picture: Supplied
Rockhampton by-election favourite Chris “Pineapple” Hooper and his “flash” campaign vehicle. Picture: Supplied

Mr Hooper, Rockhampton's now famous "accidental mayor", is armed with a new legion of "pissed-off" supporters as he embarks on another pedal-powered election campaign, determined to fulfil a decades-long political dream.

"We've got two lots now … we've got the environmental lot and the other mob are the people who are pissed off … saying to me 'we don't like your policies' but we're actually going to vote for you because of what's happened," he said.

The bike-riding, barefoot Adani protester would have become mayor by default late last year following Margaret Strelow's shock resignation following misconduct findings.

However, a last-minute dash by the State Government to reform its own legislation just months after it was passed, forced Mr Hooper from office and sparked today's by-election.

Despite the upheaval in 2020, Dr Salisbury predicted that "ironically" the new mayor could likely end up with less votes than the 31 per cent Mr Hooper received in the March 2020 election.

Both Dr Williams and Dr Salisbury predicted that preferences would be a crucial part of the by-election, despite local government elections being conducted with optional preferential voting,

"I suspect we'll see a higher proportion of completed ballot papers … which means preferences will come into play," Dr Williams said.

Other colourful candidates include: Russell Claus who spearheaded the rebuild of Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombings before returning to Rockhampton; "Fruit king" Dominic Doblo; four Current councillors; as well as 32-year-old Christoper Davies who was prompted to run after Pineapple shattered the "stereotype mayor figure".

"It's a lovely display of democracy at work," Dr Williams said.

 

CANDIDATES

 

Russell Claus

Russell Claus.
Russell Claus.

 

A key figure in rebuilding Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombings, Russell Claus moved to Rockhampton seven years ago "on the promise of … redeveloping the city" - but says he was hamstrung by local government. "I'm going for the top position … because I was not able to do that job".

 

Tony Williams

Tony Williams.
Tony Williams.

 

A 16-year city councillor, previous deputy mayor, Tony Williams has structured his campaign around disaster management, solar-power potential and 10-year funding plan. With experience in infrastructure and tourism, he believes he is a "trusted voice" for the region.

 

Bronwyn Laverty-Young

Bronwyn Laverty-Young.
Bronwyn Laverty-Young.

 

The mine worker and mum was the first to enrol in the mayoral race and has anchored her campaign on Rockhampton's tourism potential.

 

Leyland Barnett

Leyland Barnett.
Leyland Barnett.

 

A local businessman with an eye for efficiency, Leyland Barnett has a laser focus on freezing council rates for 12 months and reducing the operational costs of the council itself.

 

Shane Latcham

Shane Latcham.
Shane Latcham.

 

Division One Councillor Shane Latcham would develop a more collaborative and consultative approach to governance with a focus on water, waste and roads.

 

Christian Shepherd

Christian Shepherd.
Christian Shepherd.

 

Energised by his recent state election campaign for the KAP, Christian Shepherd is vying for mayor as an independent with a campaign focusing on "efficient spending, lower rates and regional growth".

 

Dominic Doblo

Dominic Doblo.
Dominic Doblo.

 

Rockhampton's fruit king Dominic Doblo laid out plans for a new school and cheaper water rates in his "victory policy" and has run for mayor twice before.

 

Remy McCamley

Remy McCamley.
Remy McCamley.

 

Cattle baron's grandson and law graduate Remy McCamley joined the mayoral race with a focus on more flights, more business and increasing population growth.

 

Donna Kirkland

Donna Kirkland.
Donna Kirkland.

 

 

The newly-elected Division Seven councillor and long-time business owner is vying for mayoralty because of COVID-19. She's promising four key focuses: growth, security, safety, and community.

 

Cherie Rutherford

Cherie Rutherford.
Cherie Rutherford.

 

Rockhampton's Division Five councillor since 2004 and former deputy mayor, Cherie Rutherford believes Rockhampton needs experience and has promised to create jobs, attract investment and encourage development.

 

Rob Crow

Rob Crow.
Rob Crow.

 

Queensland Rugby League Central Division manager and four-generation Rockhampton local envisions the city becoming the sporting capital of Australia. Rob Crow wants to incentivise industry and build sports tourism.

 

Christopher Davies

Christopher Davies.
Christopher Davies.

 

Prompted to run after Pineapple shattered the "stereotype mayor figure", local businessman Christopher Davies believes his experience in media has opened his eyes to the pulse of the region. "With that experience I can work towards addressing those issues… and bringing community back into council," he says.

 

John Rewald

John Rewald.
John Rewald.

 

 

A renowned community leader with eyes to help the homeless, John Rewald has promised "low cost social housing for our most needy." He's also promised to halve the mayor's salary if elected and improve parks and gardens.

 

Brett Williams

Brett Williams.
Brett Williams.

 

The by-election rekindled a 25-year dream for finance expert Brett Williams, who's worked in local government across NSW and Queensland. His campaign focuses on "the basics" - roads, waste, sewage and garbage.

 

Miranda Broadbent

Miranda Broadbent.
Miranda Broadbent.

 

Local, teacher and community volunteer, Miranda Broadbent has a vision for a "healthy, futuristic region" and has environmental sustainability and greater liveability as election promises.

 

Chris "Pineapple" Hooper

Chris Hooper.
Chris Hooper.

The bike-riding barefoot "accidental mayor" who was barred from office after the state government rushed through legislative reforms last year, environmental activist "Pineapple" is determined to fulfil a two-decade government dream and he's armed with a new legion of supporters.

 

Nyree Johnson

Nyree Johnson
Nyree Johnson

 

Business owner and management expert Nyree Johnson has promised not to increase rates above CPI if elected. She has eyes for a new Rockhampton museum and is touting a plethora of development and employment boosting policies.

 

 

Originally published as Pineapple, councillors, fruit kings: Inside Qld's biggest mayoral race


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