COUNCIL CANDIDATE: Springsure's John Watkins has thrown his hat in the ring for the 2016 Central Highlands Regional Council local election.
COUNCIL CANDIDATE: Springsure's John Watkins has thrown his hat in the ring for the 2016 Central Highlands Regional Council local election. Contributed

Saddling up for the CHRC

HE CONQUERED Kokoda, Kilimanjaro, Kathmandu, Kala Patthar and Kosciusko.

Now, Springsure local John Watkins is determined to channel his commitment to communities across the Central Highlands and conquer the role of councillor.

Although he has dedicated most of his working life to managing cattle properties in the Central Highlands, Mr Watkins first caught the council "bug" serving on the former Bauhinia Shire Council pre-amalgamation.

A member of the local Community Reference Group, Mr Watkins attended the most recent community summits in Capella and Dingo, which opened his eyes to the similar struggles faced by communities across the Central Highlands.

"At these gatherings there were like-minded people with concerns for their communities, and the same issues were a common thread through all of them," Mr Watkins said.

"Jobs, health, roads, telecommunications, tourism and other concerns were FIFO."

Of these, jobs - and therefore the business and industry to supply them - rank at the "top of the tree" on Mr Watkins' list of priorities.

He said buying local and supporting local contractors was a good starting point.

"Almost everything else flows down from (jobs) - housing, small business, schools, sporting clubs," Mr Watkins explained.

"Charity starts at home... we can start by keeping what we have got."

Health and tourism within the region were also among Mr Watkins priorities looking towards his potential first term.

Open in his stance regarding contentious issues, Mr Watkins indicated he was not in favour of 100% FIFO employment, employing "out of town" contractors or the proposed flood levy.

Having moved with his wife Debbie from the Pindari property he managed for 25 years, the father of five grown children currently balances his contract work with numerous volunteer roles.

Whether he is leading a close-knit group of friends through the Carnarvon ranges, providing a "rural voice" and support as a Hand in Hand drought leadership group member, working with the Cairdbeign Rural Fire Brigade or fulfilling his role as president of the local seniors' rugby league team, Mr Watkins has forged a strong commitment to community that he says will not waver should he be elected.

Mr Watkins said while his run at council during the previous election was unsuccessful, he was perfectly poised for the role of councillor to become his number-one commitment should he be elected on March 19.

Although he said he did not want to "promise the world", Mr Watkins said he was happy to "make a noise" for local issues affecting the local communities.


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