Awesome eight for new-look CH council

Karen Newman was the ratepayers' pick of the 13 candidates for the Central Highlands local government election.

Five fresh faces will form part of the decision-making guiding a new-look Central Highlands Regional Council into the future.

Karen Newman, Craig Hindmarsh, Robert Donaldson, Gillian Wilkins and Chris Whiteman will be taking their seats in the council chambers at the Egerton Street headquarters alongside returning councillors Rachael Cruwys, Gai Sypher and Joe Burns, who won a desperately close tussle with newcomer Loretta Gaudron for eighth spot.

Sitting councillor Charlie Brimblecombe was unsuccessful in his bid for a fourth term.

For Mrs Newman, topping the voting on her first foray into a local government election was a welcome surprise after a “competitive” campaign.

“A lot of people wanted to be more informed by events and what was happening and I think the level of interest was markedly increased over the previous election… even from the younger generation,” she said.

“I think there were informed choices on selection when they went in to vote and it’s nice to have a balance between different locations, and the balance between male and female councillors is quite unique too.”

Mrs Newman, the daughter of long-serving Bauhinia Shire Council and CHRC councillor Gail Nixon, road-tripped her way across the electorate in the lead-up to the election in an effort to connect with as many ratepayers as possible and hear their stories.

“I found the campaign very interesting as there was a lot of considered campaign management,” she said.

“That pitch in my last week, I put a little movie on Facebook on where I’d been and it got 2400 views in 24 hours.

“I think people identified with me going to their locations and the photographs within that short video demonstrated that I had been to their locations and had heard them and had looked at what they wanted me to see in the regions.”

Qualified vet Dr Gillian Wilkins said she was filled with excitement and anticipation at representing the community after polling a healthy 8.46 per cent of the overall vote.

“For me, I ran because I was dissatisfied with how things were going,” she said.

“A year ago, this was never a consideration so it’s a great opportunity for me to work from the inside rather than rail about everything not being great from the outside.

“I’ve spoken to a number of people and it’s really opened my eyes about what’s going on, the depth of dissatisfaction, so hopefully, slowly, we can regain the trust by doing the right thing and having the community consultation where it’s needed.”

Mrs Wilkins said while it was her first role in local government, she was not daunted by the challenge.

“It will be a bit of learning curve, and I’m looking forward to that because I feel my career have led me to this point where I need to do something like and give back and serve the community,” she said.

“Campaigning, the thing that I found very interesting was that most people were very informed about the situation with the council and what they were experiencing and how the council had handled things.

“I went out to Rolleston, Springsure, the Gemfields, Tieri and Capella and everywhere else and how well informed everyone was, was what really surprised me.”

Bogantungan grazier Robert Donaldson is ready to sink his teeth into his new role and perhaps, he joked, talk to Telstra about getting some better phone reception for outlying areas as his conversation with CQ Today Weekend was patchy at best.

“I’m very excited because I think we will be able to make changes to the council,” he said.

“There’s trepidation about the job ahead of us but I think if we’re all on the same page we’ll be able to make the Highlands a lot better place to live.

“The most important thing we can do this year is the CEO, no doubts about it, get a good one and I think we can make big changes for the better.”

Mr Donaldson said he didn’t know what to expect in his first tilt at local government.

“I thought I had a pretty good chance just talking to people in the bush, and I thought I’d do alright but I didn’t know what to expect from the urban people, people in the towns,” he said.

“I’ve got a fair few friends and my boys work in the mining industry and I talked to them and they wanted change too, so I thought we had a good chance.”

Duaringa’s Craig Hindmarsh said he early awaiting the transition to life as a councillor.

“I’m open to the challenge and just hope that in four years time I haven’t got people saying that bloody Cr Craig Hindmarsh,” he said, laughing.

“I am looking forward to it… I think we’re a fresh set of eyes, hopefully with fresh ideas and hopefully it will be fruitful.

“I expect that everybody there, we’ll all get along relatively well and we will have our differences, no doubt about that, but overall, we’ll work pretty well as a team.”

Rolleston farmer and miner Chris Whiteman said it was time to hit the ground running as a councillor on what he anticipated would be a “very steep learning curve”.

“I’m very excited about the make-up of the council and I think the Central HIghlands have achieved a very powerful council line-up and I’m very hopeful for the future,” he said.

“It will be a steep learning curve for a lot of us.

“We don’t know how to be in council yet and as much as there is great goodwill and optimism, there’s a lot to learn.”