SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

THERE are 34 local councils across Melbourne, 38 shires, six rural cities and one borough.

And for as many as half of those 79 councils, party politics plays an overt role.

There isn’t a law against it.

But, not so much in country areas, not until recently anyway.

During the South Gippsland Shire Council elections, we saw a number of candidates acknowledge their Greens memberships or links to the Greens.

And with action on climate change a key issue, we might see more of it.

But, in general terms, most residents and ratepayers in regional areas don’t want to see party political allegiances playing a role.

They want council decisions, government relations and advocacy based on what’s best for the community, the merits of the project or service, and good decision-making while being able to work with, and if necessary, take the government of the day to task.

Which is something Michael Whelan is going to have to be aware of if he is elected Mayor of the Bass Coast Shire Council next week, to take over from Brett Tessari, who is coming to the end of three years in the chair.

He’s the frontrunner and appears to have the numbers, as they say.

It’s no secret that Cr Whelan played a role in Jordan Crugnale’s successful election campaign last time, finally turning the spotlight on some major deficiencies in service and infrastructure in Bass Coast and ultimately resulting in the strongest investment by government this area has ever seen – $32.7m for the Wonthaggi senior campus, $115m for the Wonthaggi hospital, and $31m for the junior campus at San Remo, among other things.

But we have a federal election, likely in May next year, and a state election in November 2022, and where there’s a role to play in advocacy, Cr Whelan will need to facilitate both sides of politics, if he is elected mayor, and if this area is to put its best foot forward.

There’s still a lot to do here, with Bass Coast increasingly the playground for Melbourne’s south-east, and feeling intense pressure for growth.

Finally, a word of appreciation from a grateful community for the fantastic effort put in by Brett Tessari over the past three years – well done, Brett.