ALL five South Gippsland Shire councillors who re-stood for election have been returned for a new four-year term. It is a pattern which would seem to call into question the dismal customer satisfaction survey results of earlier this year. Some councillors certainly see it that way. Crs Mohya Davies and Kieran Kennedy said it was a vote of confidence in Council, while Cr Jeanette Harding said, “We must have done something right!”
The successful candidates excitedly gathered with shire executive staff in Council Chambers on Monday morning for the official declaration of the results of the poll by Returning Officer Sheryl Bruce. (After the postal voting closed on Friday, the provisional results were available on the web over the weekend.)
Ms Bruce said that in Coastal-Promontory Ward, where there were four candidates, the successful candidates were Cr Mohya Davies, Cr Kieran Kennedy and Cr Jeanette Harding. Bruce Beatson, who contested the election last time, was again unsuccessful.
“Happy new year!” said Cr Davies to her fellow councillors. “It’s great to be beginning a new council term. Let’s get on with business!”
Cr Kieran Kennedy thanked the people of the ward for their vote of confidence in returning the same three councillors to office and passed on his commiserations to those candidates who failed to get in. Cr Jeanette Harding echoed his sentiments.
There were six candidates vying for three positions in Strzelecki Ward and the voting went down to the wire. Once preferences were distributed, the candidates over the line were, in order, Lorraine Brunt, Cr Bob Newton and Andrew McEwen.
“It was a nail-biting experience, but very good for democracy,” said the newly declared Cr McEwen. He said that his doorknocking throughout the ward had paid off. Preferences certainly got him across the line, as the first preference vote count figures were very different from the final count. They had Bob Newton on 1626, David Amor on 1381, Andrew McEwen on 1125, Lorraine Brunt on 1024, Frank Hirst on 1020 and Ian Nicholas on 935.
Lorraine Brunt said she was “honoured to be standing here” and very grateful for the preferences she had received from other candidates.
Cr Bob Newton urged the unsuccessful candidates not to give up, saying that he had missed out the first time he stood only to win every time since. He is approaching his 20th or so year in office. “We have challenging times, certainly, but the sun will still come up,” he said. “We will work well together,” he promised. “The unfunded super liability will be hard to manage, as Kieran Kennedy said, but we will work through it. Let’s be positive.”
Andrew McEwen said there was room for improvement for South Gippsland Shire Council and he was keen to work “in a cohesive collegiate team”.
At the close of nominations Tarwin Valley Ward was uncontested so there was no need for voting. Stepping straight into office are Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks, Don Hill and returning councillor James Fawcett.
All three expressed disappointment that there had been no election. Cr Fawcett said he “would have liked to have been validated” by winning office. “I’m excited by what lies ahead of us,” he added.
Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks has hit the ground running. The self-described strategic thinker said he believes in looking to the long term and it would be good for Council to establish a sovereign fund or something similar. “It’s good to be back,” said Mr Hutchinson-Brooks, who was on council from 2005-2008 but took a break for the last four years. “I wouldn’t be back without the support of my wife, Rohanne,” he insisted, adding that he was thrilled with the make-up of the new council. “It has the makings of a good team.”