2024 Council Election Countdown – Division 5

GC&M News will be running a series of ‘Meet the Candidate’ editorial features over a three week period leading up to the March 16 Sunshine Coast Council election.
Our aim is to provide a ‘level playing field’ platform to give all of our declared mayoral and divisional candidates running in the Sunshine Coast Council election the opportunity to present their pitch and provide responses to key issues raised by our Hinterland readers.
The series will be featured in both our print and online publications.
Each candidate has been approached and asked to provide a response of no more than 250 words.

Question to the candidates
Question 1

Community Engagement and Representation:
Tell us about yourself and how you plan to actively engage with the residents of your division and ensure their concerns are heard in decision-making processes? What steps will you take to represent the diverse interests within our community?

Question 2
Economic Development at the Local Level:
What is one thing you would do to encourage local economic development, support small businesses, and enhance job opportunities within our division?

Richard Bruinsma

Question 1:

I’m a long-term local resident, journalist by profession, and former adviser in federal parliamentary offices.
A key reason for me nominating is recognition of a widening engagement gap between those who are employed or elected to serve the people, and the people they supposedly serve.
It is difficult for an elected politician who fails to rub shoulders with everyday people, to understand the true needs of our communities.
I have always been very accessible (my direct contact details are on all my election material) and I plan to remain accessible by meeting with people on their turf, chatting on the phone, attending events in person, whatever it takes for us to connect. I will do the right thing and assess all inputs on key issues before coming up with the best decisions for the community. I genuinely value talking and listening to anyone I meet – we won’t always agree but if we respect each other and work together, we can achieve good outcomes (at times, it’s the differences in people that help deliver better results). On the issue of diverse interests, just because there is diversity in a community, doesn’t mean that one interest takes precedence over another interest. There’ll be times when it’s not possible to address every need satisfactorily, but that is where the elected councillor comes in – it’s their role to consider all factors and use their knowledge to achieve the best outcome for the greatest number of people. I will always work in the best interests of Division 5.

Question 2:

It’s been raised with me several times during the campaign that the hinterland has been for years overlooked and that council ‘doesn’t listen’ – this is something that needs to be fixed. First up, I hope to organise a familiarisation bus tour around Division 5 for senior council officers and the new mayor, showing off key locations, key projects, and the various needs of the division. Respected local experts will be on the tour to share their knowledge with the decision makers. The aim of the tour is to massively boost the personal awareness and knowledge of the council staff who play major roles in decision and approval processes. I know from experience that first-hand awareness helps generate understanding and empathy, which I believe will lead to better outcomes for everyone in Division 5, including businesses. I’m also hoping we can organise a “We say Hi in the Hinterland” expo, held in busy Mooloolaba during the Christmas holidays. The expo will showcase the many good things we have in the hinterland, with coastal tourists and residents invited to come and experience our region for themselves, which will help everyone. Along with those two events, it’s vitally important that the hinterland has an energetic and committed representative, which I will be. Many developments seem to get ‘logged jammed’ in council processing. I plan to respectfully negotiate with the CEO and council staff to try to break those jams, so that positive developments and initiatives can actually materialise, to benefit the local economy.  

Winston Johnston

Question 1:

Community engagement is a vital part of delivering effective representation for the residents of Division 5 and also to the entire Sunshine Coast community. Because Division 5 is an extremely large and diverse Division, residents find it difficult to travel to my council offices in both Nambour and Maroochydore. Therefore, the only way to deliver effective community engagement and representation is by spending all available time out in the community speaking with residents, attending meetings with community/business/environmental and sporting groups, as well as continuously inspecting council assets such as roads, streets, parks, lookouts, amenities, cemeteries and sporting facilities.
By doing this, I become aware of most emerging issues and I can take action to request officer attention and action to remedy emerging problems. In addition, I become aware of the need for infrastructure improvements and upgrades and then request design plans and or estimates of cost, prior to requesting officers to submit for inclusion in to 10-year Capital Works Program. The Capital Works Program is considered at financial year budget discussions and where funds are available, are then allocated to works for current or future budgets.
All Councillors have a legal duty to act in the best interests of not only the Division they represent, but the entire Sunshine Coast Region. Therefore, it is important to keep abreast of regional issues, thus enabling informed input and voting when considered by council.

Question 2:

Division 5 is predominately a rural and rural residential Division, with 7 separate towns and 26 distinct districts. Our industries are essentially, agriculture, tourism, service industries and local businesses serving our community, tourism, construction and the wedding industry.
Surprisingly Division 5 has many historic and diverse businesses, providing employment for and to residents. In addition, tourists flock to the Division 5 to experience beautiful vistas, green fields, clean air and unique experiences. Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens, National Parks and unique businesses, together, with great restaurants, cafes, accommodation options and a vibrant wedding industry, all contribute to a strong and vibrant economy.
My role in relation to economic development is to ensure that those unique experiences continue profitably by attention to detail with regard to maintenance of infrastructure and amenities. In doing so visitors and residents enjoy our environment and value either living and working here, or, if visiting, take away a positive impression and spread the news to others.
Town Planning is complex, but extremely important to the current and future economic development of Division 5. Residents want to maintain population growth at manageable levels, whilst generally encouraging the controlled growth of tourism, business and tourism-based industries. The Queensland State Government South East Queensland Regional Plan, prohibits urban development outside the Urban Corridors in the SEQ Plan. Although the Qld Government has mandated a population growth to 560,000 for the Sunshine Coast, almost all the growth is confined to areas east of the Bruce Highway. The next Sunshine Coast Town Plan provides for very limited urban growth in Division 5.

Tracy Burton

Question 1:

For the past 12 months, I have been actively engaging with and listening to the local communities across Division 5.
It has been important for me to hear and understand what matters to you for your Local Council.
I have found that engaging with the community is crucial in understanding their needs and concerns. By hosting regular events and being accessible through monthly pop-up offices in each town, I hope to create a space for open communication and collaboration between myself and the residents of the Division 5 region.
In addition to these efforts, I also plan on utilizing social media platforms to keep the community informed about important issues and decisions.
This will allow for wider participation and feedback from those who may not be able to attend in-person events.
Furthermore, I am committed to actively listening to the diverse voices of Division 5 and working together towards finding solutions that benefit everyone.
By creating a platform for continuous dialogue and involving the community in decision-making processes, we can ensure that their needs are being met and their voices are being heard.
My dedication to community engagement will be a continuous effort throughout my term as your elected councillor.
I believe that by working together, we can build a stronger and more inclusive community in Division 5.

Question 2:

Local council plays an important role in the economic development of a region. In the case of Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the council can assist local businesses by providing resources and support to stimulate growth and create job opportunities. One way is through targeted investment in infrastructure projects such as roads, public transportation, and utilities that connect the hinterland to the Coast. Additionally, council can provide grants for small businesses to expand and innovate. Furthermore, they can work with business associations and organizations to promote the region as a tourist destination, attracting more visitors and boosting the local economy. By working closely with the local community and businesses, the council can ensure sustainable economic growth and a thriving business environment in Sunshine Coast Hinterland.