Elections can be a daunting process for voters – especially when it comes to figuring out which candidates best aligns with your views.
Here at MyGC we’ve tried our best to make sure the task of picking the next Mayor of the Gold Coast is a little easier.
We have spoken to each of the mayoral candidates and asked them all the same questions, which were sent in by readers, about the main issues affecting our region so you can compare them side by side.
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First up is Jim Wilson, a lawyer and former Queensland Reds player, who says he will be a people’s mayor that will provide the best governance with a focus on the community, finance and implementing responsible environmental protection.
NB: Links to the other candidates can be found at the bottom of the story.
MyGC: If elected Mayor, what would you say is your number one policy? Or number one issue to fix?
Jim Wilson: My number one issue, if I am elected, will be to get to the bottom of why the Mayor’s promise back in 2012 to lower rates and to deliver the transport system and roads system that we need, has not been adhere too. That will require me to get a thorough understanding of the financials of the Gold Coast City Council and to come to some conclusions. That way I can inform the public and the voters as to what the true state of the financials of the Council are.
MyGC: There seems to be a lot of questions about jobs on the Gold Coast. What’s your plan to make sure that jobs continue to grow here on the Coast as the population continues to grow?
Jim Wilson: There are of the order of 55,000 businesses registered on the Gold Coast. Only about 10 to 12 thousand of those are in construction. So, there are many, many more businesses involved in a whole range of enterprises, industries and industry sub-sectors that we need to be thinking about. We need to be putting in place activities that are high level strategic activities that the council can endorse [and] can champion, not necessarily just throwing money at things but being involved.
When I announced my small business plan for the city, within a matter of hours I had meetings and phone calls with two very, very important manufacturers in the city. One who exports all around the world, another who has their HR headquarters in this city for the whole of Australia, and they said this to me, they said ‘Jim, we don’t understand why the Council is not lobbying the State Government for changes to the curriculum in the High Schools towards more trade oriented courses because we are finding it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get apprentices for our workshops’. Now, that is a very, very sad thing to hear, that our council has been asleep at the wheel and not championing apprenticeships in conjunction with our businesses, be that small or large, so that we can offer sustainable employment to our children and our children’s children by having a proper and frank dialogue, and productive dialogue, with the State Government, and I might add the private school sector as well.
MyGC: The Light Rail is obviously a pretty contentious issue for some people – How do you feel about the trams and what would you like to see happen with the Light Rail in the future?
Jim Wilson: I think what’s done is done. I remain to be convinced that the Light Rail was initially put in the right place. I don’t know of any other city in the world that has a massive growing airport from 7 million passenger movements in a year to in the order 20 million in the next 10 years and, with international flights increasing, that wouldn’t have started the light rail at its airport and moved it north. But anyway, what’s done is done.
In terms of its expansion, I think that the only thing we’ll ever be able to afford and the only thing we need to afford is some sort of mass transit light rail or technologically advanced equivalent to our airport. Let’s face it, the numbers involved are just massive and I don’t know if the residents of Robina or places like that want to have light rail extended such that within 800 metres either side we can have high rise developments.
The facts of the matter are the only thing we’ll ever be able to afford during my lifetime or yours will be what’s absolutely critically needed to present this city in the correct way to visitors and also to connect the city on a village basis so people can travel from one end to the other is as i say some sort of contemporary, technologically advanced mass transit system to the airport which interfaces with the existing Light Rail which ends at Broadbeach.
MyGC: I think I already know the answer to this now but I have to ask – What is your preference for transport to Gold Coast Airport?
A – Buses
B – Light Rail
C – Heavy Rail
(I just want a simple A, B or C answer – anything longer than one letter will be ignored and you will lose four votes) NB: Yes, this is exactly how the question was worded.
Great – hopefully I’ve got at least 4 votes now. I’m on my way! [Laughs]
MyGC: The new City Plan unveiled by Council focused on a ‘building up, not out’ philosophy, with an unlimited height restriction. How do you feel about that plan?
Jim Wilson: Well the City Plan is now law. So, what we have to do is look at that, be it good, bad or indifferent and be it the product of proper consultation or otherwise. I think the consultation on it was appalling and far too fast given the fundamental changes that are contained within it.
The City Plan means different things for different regions and different precincts. The one that is copping the most press is in relation to unlimited high-rise residential development in four nodes – Southport, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach and now Coolangatta.
Do you know that most of the people, if not all of the people, in and around Coolangatta and the Southern Gold Coast, if not the whole Gold Coast, do not realise that there are sections of Coolangatta that are zoned as unlimited high rise. Now, that in itself is the product of extremely poor consultation and poor information by not only the Council administration but by Councillors themselves.
One of my key policies in respect to the City Plan is, I want to bring the whole community together in each of the divisions or each of the precincts to understand what the new City Plan says, what it means for them and how they feel about it. And if there are actions that have to be taken by the council I will be recommending to my fellow Councillors that we take those actions. If it means that we have to lobby the state government for changes to regulations or whatever might be the case, then I think it’s the Council’s responsibility to do that – listen to the people and to do that.
Now that also includes roads and transport. It astounds me that these sorts of new planning schemes can come in and we know that there’s an infrastructure lag of horrendous proportions at the moment. It’s proposing increased density on some serious assumptions about how many people are going to have cars in high-rise developments and there are many, many other issues.
I do not believe, and I believe from my travels around the city that the people in the streets and the people in the suburbs believe, that this is just going to exacerbate on an already intolerable problem for our lifestyle and our productivity – i.e. that roads and transport are going to get worse and worse in terms of their ability to cater for the increase in population. So we’ve got a problem and the only solution that I can come up with is that I will take the council to the people. [I will] listen to the people and have our councillors earn their high salaries of $180,000 a year and get off their bottoms and get out into their communities and to get out there and explains these things to their constituents. I’ll certainly be a part of that wherever I possibly can and will be recommending to council that we take appropriate action, as I’ve explained earlier.
MyGC: The truck crash on the M1 earlier this month brought chaos and major disruption to our city streets. What is your plan for improving traffic on the Gold Coast so we can avoid major issues like this in the future?
Jim Wilson: In respect to [high-rise] development, I’m not convinced and I think the greater population is not convinced, that proper and adequate analysis was done and taken account of in the approval process for the impact on roads, not just within the precincts and adjacent precincts, but generally across the region. [We could soon have] one 55 storey development and within 10 minutes there’s another 4 or 5. There’s got to be some projective capability to analyse what the roads and transport system is going to need. If we’re just going to do it on a one off basis then we’re never ever going to get ahead of the problem and we’re clearly a long, long way behind at the moment.
The M1 is not only Australia’s national road connecting north and south but, unfortunately in the case of the Gold Coast, it serves as an arterial road for the city. Now the question is what are we going to do about that? It’s going to be a combination of many things. It’s not going to be a combination, as the Mayor has said, of ‘well that’s a state government issue we’ll leave it to the state government’. I’m sorry but it’s a regional south east Queensland issue. It covers probably three or four shires. It covers Brisbane, Redlands is affected by it, Logan is affected by it, to a lesser extent the Scenic Rim and to a massive extent the Gold Coast and I might add the Tweed over the border. So, some kind of regional solution has to be negotiated and we all can’t put out heads in the sand because it’s creating massive, massive deleterious effects to our lifestyle and our productivity.
People have come to live in this beautiful corner of the south-east region because of lifestyle and it’s up to governments and councils to reflect the communities desire to have solutions for these matters put in place. That doesn’t exist at the moment according to me and according to all the people I’ve spoken to. We have to get on our bikes and start addressing this. And I for the life of me cannot understand why the plan to have, what I call a major service arterial road, was put aside.
There seems to be this concept that in the Sunbelt people aren’t going to drive cars. Well, we’re on the same latitude south of the equator as Orlando, Florida is north of the equator – 27.5 degrees. Let’s not try and change people’s behaviour in a Sunbelt. The reality of it is it’s going to be a combination of a number of factors and we have to get down and have a true community endorsed plan. A plan that’s endorsed not only by our community but adjacent shires and cities and once we’ve got that then we can negotiate strongly with the government, both state and federal. I don’t think that’s happening and I intend to show some leadership in that respect with the community’s help.
MyGC: In your opinion, what aspect of the Council is most in need of change and reform, and how will you address this?
It’s unfortunate to say but I think there needs to be, well there will be if I’m elected, a review of the top down of the council administration. I’m hearing far too many comments and concerns about harassment, inappropriate management practices and an inability to understand Enterprise Bargaining Agreements. For example, it will soon to be announced the fact that the council’s underpaid our cleaners by $5-7.5 million and there might even need to be some reinstatements based upon changes to the EBA which the council elected not to take to the Queensland industrial review commission. If they had, it wouldn’t have been approved because of the changes. So I think there are some skills and competency questions in council. I think a number of senior people have been there too long. I think the community certainly feels that, that’s the feedback I’m getting loud and clear from the community.
As a perspective Mayor I’d be crazy not to listen to that because that’s why people would be voting for me because they’d obviously expect me to engage with the rest of council to have a look at how the council admin is performing. If we can’t treat poor employees with dignity and respect with proper policies and procedures and processes, how can we expect them to serve the ratepayers who are paying pay their wages? How can we expect them to serve us with a smile productively and efficiently? The answer is we can’t. The fish rots from the head. We have to have a look at our skill sets and our competencies and our behaviours within the council admin.
To find out what the other candidates have to say – click on their names below: