IT WASN’T Trump versus Biden. And it wasn’t strictly a debate, but it was the next best thing when 10 candidates for the Tarwin Valley Ward faced off in the final South Gippsland Shire election forum on Thursday night this week.

So, who won?

You’d have to say Adrian Darakai, at 33 years-of-age, one of the youngest candidates in the field.

In his opening address he employed the time-honoured speaking technique of repeating a word or phrase for powerful emphasis, much as Martin Luther King did with his famous “I have a dream” speech.

For Darakai it was “I see a better way forward…” and he did.

“I see a better way forward in arts and culture, that brings people out and together.

“I see a better way forward for business, where we nurture and build the businesses of tomorrow.

“I see a better way forward for preserving our natural beauty, making sure people in the future are able to enjoy what we see today.

“I see a better way forward for roads. I see a better way forward for our sporting facilities.

“And I see a better way forward for this council.”

He clearly listened to the questions and gave thoughtful answers and got the opportunity to sum up the night as the last speaker

“It’s time for a better way forward and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

That makes him a good speaker, nimble on his feet and a good thinker but would it make him a good councillor? That’s up to the 126 people who tuned in to the online forum and the 8600 voters of Tarwin Valley who didn’t.

The fact is though, most of the 10 did well.

* Lindsay Love is well-informed about council, is a qualified civil engineer and has a strong record of community involvement. He also revealed he has a development project in Nyora.

* Nicole Edwards-Galal acknowledged she started out nervous but finished on strong: “I believe real change can be achieved at a local level, but the community needs to be able to trust its representatives and we can do that by listening and making sure every voice is heard, not just the loudest.”

* Clare Williams had a clear message: “Make your vote count and put people in who are prepared to represent you.”

* Don Hill gave others the benefit of his considerable knowledge and experience. He also had some strong views about why we need to change the way council operates.

* Les Harmer has a Business Degree and considerable experience in the private sector. He’s also well connected in the Mirboo North community.

* Rosemary Cousin said she was driven by the “amazing community spirit” she witnessed during the Delburn bushfires of 2009 when 44 homes and spoke of the need to meet climate change and other environmental challenges.

* Andrew Corcoran has worked with other councils and has a good understanding of community services. He wants to expand opportunities for smaller towns by expanding tourism by leveraging interest in our rail trails and connection to the Prom. Guarantees to be a team player on council.

* John Schelling, as a 62-year resident of the shire, John said he was embarrassed to see the behaviour of the last council. He’s well connected with the community as president or secretary of 12 different groups and wants to see better planning for residential and business growth, better access to rural areas for farm produce and buses, and support and encouragement for volunteers.

* Jeremy Curtis, a retired farmer from Berrys Creek underscored the importance of agriculture as the area’s main wealth and jobs creator but stressed importance of tourism in evening out the cyclical nature of farm income. Arts and culture, and community service is a passion.

Details

Jeanette White opened the Tarwin Valley candidates forum, welcoming to candidates, participants and offered the welcome to country also asking people be kind and generous and to come together in a spirit of respect and encouragement.

“We had planned to have this in a public space but have not been able to. This is about the Tarwin Valley Ward but whoever is elected will be representing all of the people of the shire. It’s not a debate, it’s an information forum.”

The forum was facilitated by Colin Pidd and Jenny Young and brought to you by the Venus Bay Community Centre, Foster Chamber of Commerce, Leongatha Business Association, Mirboo Country Development Inc. and Mirboo North Times, and Korumburra Round Table.

Adrian Darakai

Thank you everyone for joining us this evening. Why did I stand: There is a well-known Irish proverb, that you will never plough a field by turning it over in your mind. Dairy farming life instilled in me a love of this area. I see a better way forward in arts and culture, that brings people out and together. I see a better way forward for business, where we nurture and build the businesses of tomorrow. I see a better way forward in preserving our natural beauty, making sure people are able to enjoy what we see now in the future. I see a better way forward for roads. I see a better way forward for our sporting facilities. I’ve got to know all candidates and they have been respectful. I see a better way forward for the council.

Q. If you get elected what would you like to know more about?

A. Like to know how to better represent the shire and get to know more of the groups that make this shire tick and already appreciate getting to know more people.

Lindsay Love

Thanks to everyone for putting this night on. I’m married with three children and 6 grandchildren. Educated in Leongatha with a civil engineering degree. Worked with Ready-mix and a local shire also ran a farm locally. I’ve also run an engineering business and also run a childcare business in the Valley. We understand the challenges of running a business. A member and official of the Leongatha Cycling Club for many years. Rode my bike over most of the roads in the shire and found them lacking. Rock’n’Roll dancing enthusiast.  Since 2016 been SG Action Group Secretary. More efficiency in local government to reduce rates. Disappointed that the community has lost its voice. Spent a lot of time following council matters and don’t expect to need the time to come to terms with the council that other candidates may need.

Q. What else would you like to see from the shire?

A. Shire could do with more marketing.

Nicole Edwards-Galal

Thanks to all for organising the night. I’m a mother, a student and in small business. Community should have faith in the council and councillors expressing their interests. Appreciate time people taken to reach out to me. Love listening to people. I have a genuine desire to help. Studying a Masters’ Degree in International Relations and Law. Local Government in a position to make the right decisions for the environment, right to farm, and climate emergency. Need to improve community and sporting facilities, especially indoor facilities. I’m honest, resilient, and grounded by my moral compass and always consider how I would justify myself to my daughter and it’s never steered me wrong.

Q. How would like to see the shire in three years.

A. More transparent, open and engaging to the community and see the approval ratings improve.

Clare Williams

Thank you to people who have taken the time to get to know the candidates. I’m a mother and a small business operator. Worked in community services. I am passionate about good decision making. Maximise all grant opportunities and make good use of our rates. Want to have council representatives who are passionate and respectful team players. Need to build on our assets and make them sustainable for the future including expanding children’s services. Make the environment right for business. Always been involved in the community and this is the next step. You are the reason I am standing, and I want to be the connection between you and the council. I value a straight-forward approach. Let’s get the job done in the best interests of the community. I am ready to plan for our future and the future for our community and kids.

Q. Also want to put a question to you about the future?

A. I want to build on opportunities for our kids, with infrastructure. Look at all different perspectives.

Don Hill

What matters to me is the ratepayers and the people who live in South Gippsland. I have no business or vested interests. I’m retired now and have time to commit. I want to change the way council operates. There is no public participation in council anymore. We had three opportunities for people to present to council but now there’s none of that. Don’t get the agenda until five days before the council. Need to open up briefing sessions, livestreamed to the community. You will have time to contact your council and express your view. Like to see spending spread more evenly. Develop the 10-year plan including people. Need to look at shared services again thrown out by the staff. State Government gave us $5m for that. Look at a zero rate rise and reducing rates over next 10 years. Could have done zero rate rise without impact on ratepayers. Undertook to apply for no planning permits if elected.

Q. What do you hope discover as a councillor?

A. I’d like to see the council group and CEO and administrators work hand in hand, without vested interests for the ratepayers.

Les Harmer

I want to thank the Mirboo Country Development and MN Times for hosting tonight. Married to wife Dianna and two children. I have a degree in corporate administration, 31 years in the industrial chemical sector. Prior to that I was in the ceramics/plastics industry. Played a lot of sports, recently badminton, cricket umpire today with LDCA. Since coming to MN, been in three community groups, garden group, MN Times, Home and Help Food run by church. Spoke to 4 churches in town to have an immediate response for the community after those storms. Time for greater transparency between the council and the community. An advocate of good corporate governance. If you do not have this in place bad practice keep happening. Emphasis on expansion of tourism, including small towns. More towns made RV Friendly towns. More local jobs.

Q. What can we learn from other parts of Australia other councils?

A. Not a lot. Get ourselves organised for the local people. Can look at other councils but not sure it has a lot to do with us.

Rosemary Cousin

Thanks for this opportunity. Pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land. Judge me and vote for me on my interests and experience. Set up an organic farm in Mardan. For 14 years been producing sustainable food. We have really felt the extremes of climate change and the viability has really impacted our production; winds, frosts, hail etc. impacted our ability to produce. Loss of power serious situations that really need closer investigation. Joined farmers for action on climate change. This community has an amazing spirit. Came in contact with that during the Delburn bushfires. Coordinated bushfire relief. There are so many volunteers and more would work for the community if coordinated.

Q. What do you hope to learn?

A. How to be more effective. All realise we are not perfect, need to grow our skills. I believe we are always learning.

Andrew Corcoran

Built our own house here in Mirboo North six years ago. Years of experience in public service, and community service. Worked with other councils and have a good understanding of community services. Need to take action towards zero nett emissions. Need to do more to expand tourism, work with our smaller communities leveraging our rail trails and connection to Wilsons Prom. Develop our arts and culture and also our infrastructure as tested by the storm. Really need to be more robust. That corner in Leongatha is really waiting for someone to die. Better roads an issue. Will be a team player on council. I want to make a contribution to the community and feel I can work with anyone.

Q. Advocacy important what do we have going for us?

A. Food bowl of Australia, clean and green but need to be developing our infrastructure.

John Schelling

Thanks for hosting the night. I was embarrassed as a 62 year resident of the area to see the behaviour of the last council. That’s got to end with this election. Been president or secretary of 12 different groups. Life memberships of three groups; basketball, Town Cricket Club and Stony Creek Football Club. Overseen the development of other facilities. Need land for housing, industry and business, land planned to provide jobs for our children. More assistance to our 100s of volunteers. We have a strong network of rec reserves, but they need better support to maintain and improve standards. Need better access to our farming properties for produce, school buses etc. Also like to see a hard rubbish collection introduce and Drummuster service. Encourage people to visit and maybe they’ll decide to stay. We’ve got it here, it’s just a matter of introducing it to people.

Q. What would you like to do on council?

A. A process of discovery, listen to people and produce good outcomes.

Jeremy Curtis

Why am I standing, got an appreciation of the area and love to represent it. Been involved in farming all my life. Farming is such an important sector, and all the other businesses and jobs that are generated by it. Have a good understanding of the challenges of running a business. Need to look at other ways of sustaining our economy when you appreciate the cycles of agriculture, that’s why I have also focussed on tourism and the arts. Been involved in community, including as president of Lyric Theatre where you see what happens when you bring people together. In Rotary Club. We live in a time of change and we need to celebrate that. I am community minded and like to see a council with a good mix of people who can work together.

Q. If elected what are the strengths of the region?

A. It’s a beautiful part of the world. Know from farming we have fantastic resources we can build on. Close to Melbourne, lots of new people coming here with great ideas.

The candidates also responded to a question and answer session and gave closing remarks at the end of a two-hour event.