TWO experienced councillors have thrown their hats into the ring for the October 22 South Gippsland Shire Council elections.

Poowong’s Jim Forbes, a former President of the South Gippsland Shire Council back in 2000, is answering the call again “after the debacle” of the last regime.

Andrew McEwen, a name synonymous with the problems which afflicted the last council, has announced his intention to run again. Mr McEwen’s decision to stand was made public only days before Acting Minister for Local Government Mary-Anne Thomas announced that a municipal monitor would be appointed to the Council following the election “to support good governance and democracy during the Council’s first year”.

Here’s the pitch from these two experienced campaigners, who will face off against each other in the Strzelecki Ward, stretching from Fish Creek in the south to Nyora in the north, including the Poowong, Loch, Korumburra and Outtrim areas.

Jim Forbes

(Details contributed by candidate).

Jim Forbes wants to return to the Council table after witnessing the debacle, embarrassment and shame of the last Council. The Korumburra and South Gippsland Councillor says he has the enthusiasm and experience to help return the confidence and trust residents and ratepayers once had in our Council.

He has a proven track record of supporting the local community with decades’ long service to the local hall, swimming pool, sports centre, Apex Club and LandCare to name a few.

His previous time on Council was in the last four years with the Korumburra Shire prior to amalgamation and immediately back with the new Council serving as Shire President in 2000.

Recognised for running a vibrant meeting within the Act and having integrity, he would be a welcome return concentrating on local issues for local people that sit within local governments remit.

He said “the focus has to be on delivering great local government services – not confusing State and Federal responsibilities with Councils role”.

He recently changed from a 35-year dairying to beef operation and now no longer teaching, which has freed up the time to give back yet again to the broader community. Jim recognises that the agriculture sector, in particular dairy and beef, are the engine room of the shire but he is acutely aware of the cycles in profitability and sees the need for supporting diversity in farming, and tourism alongside the arts.

He said: “my focus is on the core issues of Council, high rates, infrastructure renewals and maintenance, specifically of roads, footpath extensions, addressing the need for more industrial land, whilst striving to reduce our carbon footprint etc.

Mr Forbes was upfront in saying he strongly believed none of the former, sacked councillors should be considered by the voters because they failed to recognise why they were dismissed, let alone apologised.

The old adage “past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour” may be apt, he said.

Also, he was adamant in wanting to see a fresh start to rebuild public confidence that the Council was working for the betterment of residents.

Jim has been a Justice of the Peace for several decades, independent and still has the passion and drive for improving the liveability of what we have here in South Gippsland.

Andrew McEwen

(Details contributed by the candidate).

In one way or another, Councils do matter in people’s lives. They are crucial to the wellbeing of a community. A great Council not only provides a quality range of services and facilities but works closely in partnership with its communities.

It works with the community to build a preferred future for the shire. An excellent Council is one that is trusted and respected. It is open, transparent, and accountable and as far as possible, it avoids unnecessary use of secrecy in decision making, behind closed doors.

An engaged Council is concerned that its rates are affordable, and there is equity in fairness in the distribution of facilities and services. In short, it reflects the values and aspirations of its community.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for the current South Gippsland Council, where its average community satisfaction scores have declined by a catastrophic 35% in the past ten years. The current Council’s performance is 20% below its equivalent large rural shires. Therein lies an exciting potential for us all.

South Gippslanders deserve much more from their Council. Frankly, our community experiences exceptionally high property rates. Overall, the Council is less than open, and transparent and it has suffered from significant decline in community satisfaction over the last 10 years, culminating in the less than satisfactory performance by the Administrators.

Turning this around will require significant change. Getting the outcomes that we desire and having a Council that we can be proud of, involves the restoration and strengthening of local democracy. It must involve developing a genuine partnership with the community, and not simply paying lip service to it.

We need to engage all our local stakeholders. To achieve this, we will require a Council that is willing and able to operate collegially, civilly and with mutual respect. We need Councillors that are willing to work as a team, for the benefit of the whole shire and not just special interest groups or particular towns.

We need Councillors that can draw on a diversity of skills, experience and strong community connections and engagement. It is healthy that most of the candidates declared to date, are new to local government. This will bring fresh blood and a diversity of skills, as well as experience to help rejuvenate and restore local democracy.

I was first appointed to Council in 2012 with a view to assisting in the modernising and reforming of our Shire, to stop working from behind closed doors, and to actively work with the community. I continually advocated for the delivery of more affordable rates, whilst still ensuring quality services for our community. I championed the idea of insisting upon an equitable and fair decision-making process whist insisting that the Council work in partnership with the community.

I have a strong desire to work collaboratively with others, to finish the task of reforming Council and bring it into the 21st century. I am strongly embedded in the community and involved in over 12 local groups and organisations.

I have my finger on the pulse in regard to issues and concerns within our community. I have a passion and desire to enhance the performance of this Council markedly. I want us to have a Council that we can all respect and be proud of. One that achieves the communities desired outcomes.