Meet The Mayoral Candidate: PENNY TOLAND

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, we spoke to Penny Toland, a scientist, volunteer lawyer and university lecturer, who says she wants to bring her wealth of knowledge, experience and integrity with her at every step if voted in as our next Mayor.

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?

Penny Toland:  The issue that’s most commonly raised with me is all about how development applications are being approved. Every day I am getting at least ten people raise that as their issue. I want to make that my priority because that really does seem to be the priority from the community perspective.

MyGC: The new City Plan unveiled by Council recently focused on a ‘building up, not out’ philosophy. How do you feel about the plan?

Penny Toland: I think there needs to be some changes. What is very apparent is the public have no confidence in the plan and a lot of them don’t understand it.

What residents are saying to me is they are really concerned that we are going to lose on the Gold Coast what actually sets us apart from other places. So, the way that I refer to that is ‘Urban Character’, you know, as you travel around the city the fact that there are differences with density and height and all that type of thing with different suburbs.

Everyone has made it very clear that they don’t want to see unlimited height buildings from Coolangatta straight through to Yatala. I don’t think the plan actually provides for that. That was certainly reflected at the community meeting hosted by Main Beach. At that meeting we had City Planners there endeavouring to explain how the plan works for people. I was sort of taken aback at a casual comment talking about Main Beach specifically, saying “there’s an increase in density from RD6 to RD8”. Unless you’re well versed in the plan you sort of don’t realise what that means and it’s actually a massive increase in density. We’re seeing more than a doubling of density which will really impact on our local amenities.

So I think with all those things in mind, I’ve got some ideas on how to restore public confidence in the city plan.

MyGC: The Light Rail is obviously a pretty contentious issue – what would you like to see happen with the Light Rail in the future?

Penny Toland: I think it does have to extend to the southern end of the Gold Coast. Stage 2 is going to see the northern end of the city and Brisbane beyond connected to our coastline and I think, obviously, our next step is going to be heading south. But with that, there are substantial engineering challenges.

The Light Rail, from my understanding, can only operate on a ten percent incline, which [if you] throw Burleigh Hill in there, you have got some issues. I said late last year I thought the public consultation was premature. You know, [doing it] three weeks leading up to Christmas without the engineering challenges being overcome before going out to the community, I thought that was a waste of money ,I think it was just electioneering.

I think [the Light Rail] needs to be incorporated into the surrounding landscaping and there really needs to be sound urban design to make sure that it is not a ghost town on either side.

A lot of people are saying to me ‘I wouldn’t mind an offshoot of the Light Rail coming near me’ and I don’t think people realise that the city plan means on 800 metres either side of the track it’s unlimited height. I don’t think that’s been communicated enough. Those who are aware of it sort of have second thoughts around wanting to be really, really close to it.

At the end of the day it would be my preference to have it going as close to where there’s already high density residential areas so we don’t see this massive jump from low density to high which would really disrupt that sort of character I was talking about before.

MyGC: 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 from a reader who sent it in.

Penny Toland: I think Heavy Rail out of those three.

I won’t say anything else about it because I don’t want to be docked four votes [laughs].

MyGC: A truck crash on the M1 earlier this year 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?

Penny Toland: Traffic is definitely the most challenging issue for our City.

A lot of people talk about other cities that have really good transport networks – Melbourne is a prime example. I think getting around in Melbourne is really easy to do but Gold Coast is a linear City so we have this extra challenge of how do we get around.

When I looked internationally into research about congestion, it’s pretty uniform that it’s not about increasing road space but rather managing the demand. I think [with] the layout of our city, we won’t ever get away from people using personal vehicles, so I think we need to accept that. As the M1 and a lot of our roads are controlled by state and federal [governments] I will be proactively lobbying them to have a look at further investment in our roads. But we also need to look at other ways to get around, like finishing off some bikeways or the Light Rail.

Something I’m very interested in, which has worked very well in Europe, is e-car sharing, which may be a bit forward thinking for some, but I think it has the added benefit of dealing with parking.

The e-car sharing idea is; there’s a bank of electric cars charging and it is used to compliment public transport. So, businesses can use this type of model instead of having a fleet of cars which will remove cars off the road. I’ve heard [Mayor Tom] Tate suggest we all start riding bikes all over the place but as most tradies and anyone with a couple of kids will tell you,  that’s not always practical. So I think the e-car sharing is a way to go.

Basically, you just use the car for a journey and then you go about your business. One thing I was envisioning is, looking at Burleigh, which is a very popular place but parking is a nightmare, having an e-car sharing place near there. You can basically take a vehicle from somewhere else, leave it there, plug it back in, spend the day there and then go back and take another vehicle. It’s been used very successfully overseas and I’d like to see something like that over here.

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?

Penny Toland: You’d be hard pressed to find a politician who doesn’t promise jobs as part of an election camping [laughs].

I’ve never heard the word crane used so much as I have in the last couple of weeks. You’ve got individuals taking credit for all these cranes. I think in the construction industry, which is a big industry on the Coast, we are obviously seeing a lot of work. We’ve got the Commonwealth Games and all the infrastructure going along with that. But we must remember that the steps taken to get to that point was from the previous Council and the State government. I think to remain competitive and actually come out on top both nationally and internationally we need to shift to a knowledge economy. I’d like to see the Gold Coast become the innovation capital of Australia and people will keep hearing me say that.

We’re blessed here on the Gold Coast We’ve got three universities and I think we can actually leverage off these universities and foster some relationships between the  academic area and business sector. I’ll be supporting the promotion of the innovation corridor where we’ll see medical services and local businesses come together and engage with the universities and collaborate and be competitive on an international stage.

A number of my policies are aimed at supporting businesses either relocating here or establishing here. If I’m elected and my policies are rolled out, I think it’ll be a very attractive place to do business and the more business we have setting up here, the more potential there is for jobs. They’re going to be the jobs of the future. [It’s about] recognising construction but also what do we do when the construction boom ends? What are we going to do in 5, 10 years from now? That’s what I’m focusing on.

MyGC: In your opinion, what aspect of the Council is most in need of change and reform, and how will you address this?

Penny Toland: I think at the moment it is exceptionally toxic and I don’t think if you have a toxic environment it’s that functional. I think a lot of people who work within council are very unhappy at the environment in there. I’m very passionate about representative government so the way local government should work is you elect your local representative, your divisional Councillor, and if I’m Mayor it would be my expectation they would be out in their community and then they would bring to the table their views of the community and advocate as strongly as they can. The Mayor has the extra responsibility of strategic direction but it’s about balancing the different needs.

I think pretty much what we’re seeing is all media being done by the Mayor. We’ve got divisional mail outs going out under the Office of Mayor. So basically, there really is this appearance that the divisional Councillors are getting sidelined, you know, there not allowed to speak out on local issues without getting permission. All media goes through the one person and that’s not the way it should work. Every Councillor is accountable to their people so the people in their area know who they are.

If something’s happening within their area I think the Councillor should be the spokesperson for that. It shouldn’t be about one person hogging the limelight, that’s not how it should work. I’m more about working as a team and supporting people to achieve what it is they want to achieve. I think you’ll get better outcomes that way.

To find out what all the other candidates have to say – click on their names below:

Tom Tate
Jim Wilson

Brett Lambert
John Abbott
Andrew Middleton

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