Today I confirmed that I will not be contesting the forthcoming Local Government elections and seeking a second term as mayor.
The coming of the New Year has meant deep reflection for me regarding my values and family – and following considerable consultation and discussion with my wife Joy and family, coupled with advice from my ophthalmologist and doctor, I have made a decision to step out of the public arena.
Recently I have had a severe eye condition, which flared itself in September 2015 that forced me to cancel a trip to China. The cancelation of this visit on behalf of the Bundaberg Region – while personally funded – was very disappointing for me.
Unfortunately my vision is somewhat affected, recovery is slow and reading can be somewhat difficult. I have creasing or corrugation on my cornea as a result of an ulcer, which formed on my eye.
Understandably, reading copious amounts of correspondence, reports and spending quite some time on computers is part and parcel of serving on Council. This remains a considerable challenge for me.
I am extremely reluctant to walk away from Council having spent 14 years serving our community – with the last four as the Bundaberg Region Mayor and am personally proud of the contributions I have made to my community through my representation on Council.
Under my leadership, the current Council has played a major role in many projects, worth tens of millions of dollars that will unfold across the Bundaberg Region in 2016, approximately $174,500,000.00.
Projects of the magnitude of Rubyanna $71 million, the gas pipeline $19 million, Knauf and international company – $70 million and the multi-use sport and community centre (Multiplex) $14.5 million. Projects of this magnitude do not happen overnight.
I have always had a passion to put something back into the community. Council has provided me with that opportunity.
I have also enjoyed significant community involvement outside Council, being Patron to no less than four local organisations and serving as a director and member on numerous boards.
Being the current chair of the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils has also allowed me to promote our region to State and Federal government decision makers.
When elected Mayor in 2012, I promoted a platform of economic stimulus for the region. Unfortunately, the 2013 flood and tornado disaster came along to disrupt the lives of so many people in our community and slowed down the progress of my immediate vision I had for the growth of our region.
The recovery came at a cost and Council reserves of around $20 million were expended on flood repairs. This was money set aside for other projects that simply had to be put on the back-burner, while the projects essential to recovery were completed.
I am proud of what we as a Council – and I include every member of Council’s staff in this statement – have achieved in the three years since the well-documented disasters.
I believe we handled the response in the wake of the floods in an appropriate, sincere and professional manner and which reflected the resources of Council.
As the level of government closest to the community, we were always going to bear the brunt of people’s frustration and especially those people calling for dredging of the Burnett River and other flood mitigation suggestions.
No matter how we tried, people simply did not want to hear that the river was a State Government issue, even though Council took a leading role in consultation with the community to seek out flood mitigation possibilities. As a result, Council did present a number of flood mitigation suggestions to the State Government. However, I remain very supportive of the necessary flood mitigation projects needed into the future.
We all live in what I believe to be the most desirable region in Australia. We need to remain positive, work collaboratively and throw our support behind the people and projects that are taking our community forward.
I have enjoyed the company of my fellow Councillors and the robust debate that was an inevitable part of our discussions and decision making. I have been fortunate to have a professional team from the CEO to our General Managers and staff who have provided timely and valuable advice.
Throughout my Council career, I have cherished the support of my wonderful family and a caring wife. While I harbour some significant regret that my role as a community leader is over I look forward to sharing my time with my wife, children and grand-children and possibly undertaking new ventures.
I am leaving with a couple of disappointments such as not yet having a direct flight service to Sydney and Melbourne and up North, and that Council still has divisions.
Thank you to the many residents of the Bundaberg region who have provided their support and friendship over the years. I sincerely value those connections.
Best of luck to my fellow councillors and candidates who are seeking a position at the forthcoming elections. It is an honour and a privilege to serve the people of the Bundaberg Region.