ONE OF nine candidates contesting six vacancies on the Toodyay Shire Council says he lives in Perth and visits Toodyay every second weekend to stay in a hotel.
Another says he has seen no evidence of shire dysfunction and it is “good” the CEO’s contract was renewed last July.
And a third, one of two councillors seeking re-election, has put his house on the market to move interstate but says this could take years and there is “important unfinished business that I would like to see through”.
These public statements preceded the start of an Australia Post mail-out of election packages which – for the first time – allows all Toodyay electors to vote for all candidates as a result of this year’s council decision to scrap electoral ward boundaries.
The mail-out to all Toodyay voters began last Friday (September 20) and the election closes at 6pm on Saturday October 19.
The nine candidates include Cr Ben Bell, whose term expires next month, and former Cr Bill Manning who had another two years to serve but chose to resign this month.
Former Cr Manning faces a fresh election involving all voters instead of keeping his former Central Ward council seat, which he won by an absolute majority in 2017 when most Toodyay voters had no say in the outcome.
Three others elected in 2017 under the old ward system – Shire President Brian Rayner, Deputy President Therese Chitty and Cr Paula Greenway – have publicly said they intend to complete their four-year terms despite most people not voting for them.
Nobody voted for President Rayner because no other candidates stood for election in his now abolished former North Ward.
He returned to his seat in 2017 without being required to face voters, and the council then elected him shire president for two years in a 5-4 secret ballot after he voted for himself.
A new council elected next month will decide who will be shire president for the next two years.
This month’s council meeting at 4pm on Tuesday September 24 will be the last for Crs Judy Dow, Rick Twine and audit committee chair Rob Welburn who were all elected for four years in 2015 and are not standing for re-election this month.
Former Cr Manning will miss this month’s council after being required by local government law to resign his seat to contest the election because he still had two years left to serve.
The elections are being held as the shire faces the outcome of a long-running State Government inquiry which is expected to report and make recommendations to WA Local Government Minister David Templeman by mid-November.
The formal inquiry followed almost a year of State Government monitoring of the shire before Mr Templeman ordered an official investigation which started last December.
Eight of the nine candidates seeking election attended a ‘Meet the Candidates’ pubic meeting organised by the Toodyay Progress Association in the shire’s Stirling Terrace civic centre last night, with only candidate Beth Ruthven, from Coondle, absent due to a family memorial service in Melbourne.
The others present were Cr Ben Bell, former Cr Manning, Bruce Campbell, Brian Chambers, Sue Pearce, Bruce Guthrie, Rosemary Madacsi and Phil Hart.
They were allowed three minutes each to deliver an election speech, followed by questions from about 45 people present.
The 90-minute meeting ended with a 90-second summary from each candidate.
MR CAMPBELL said the “elephant in the room” was that he lives in Perth.
He said this was “a strength” for Toodyay because he could to speak “face to face” with State Government Ministers and departmental heads about matters affecting the shire and local constituents.
Mr Campbell later told The Herald that he is renovating a fenced-off cottage with barred windows and a hand-written ‘no entry’ sign across the front door in Jubilee Street.
He said he generally stays in a hotel with his young son when they visit Toodyay every second weekend.
Mr Campbell said Perth family commitments prevented him moving to Toodyay if elected but he would attend all council meetings and agenda briefings.
He said he could link Toodyay to Perth by promoting local produce and crafts in a ‘pop-up’ shop in Perth.
In his written election statement, Mr Campbell said he would be “seeking to attract a new aged care facility development in the shire which would create local employment”.
He supported “micro-brewery type enterprises in the shire, preservation of the historic football stand and showgrounds area (no residential subdivision of the oval) and full transparency of all shire expenditure by publishing such online”.
He also supported “rate increase minimisation through the introduction of an initial plan to reduce shire expenditure by three per cent in 2020”.
Mr Campbell, who is 45 next month, said he plans to retire in Toodyay.
MR CHAMBERS, from Nunile, was asked about his September 11 Facebook comment that “so far I have seen no dysfunction (at the shire) as the system as far as I have read is operating as required by local government requirements for the council and councillors”.
“None of us likes rate rises, however the shire has to work within a budget and costs are still rising, so this may be inevitable if the shire is to be improved and projects kept going,” Mr Chambers posted.
“I believe it is good that the CEO (contract) was renewed, rather than searching for another that is (an) unknown entity to the town.”
In his written election statement, Mr Chambers said he had lived in Toodyay for more than 29 years “and have gained some knowledge of community activities and future endeavours”.
“Previous employment has afforded me experience in horticulture, management and company representation,” he said.
“I have interest in the community, its environmental and ecological future, and can provide time and energy to improving issues within the community that concern Toodyay residents.”
Mr Chambers told the meeting that he would “obviously like to keep the increases in rates down to a minimum and investigate ways for the council to become more self-sufficient”.
“I would like to promote harmony – I am sure councillors have the best interests of the community in mind,” he said.
Former Cr Bill Manning
FORMER Cr Manning, from Hoddys Well, said it was unfortunate that not much had changed in a “dysfunctional” council since his election in June last year.
“Councillors need to critically examine reports, ask the hard questions, seek more information and not simply be rubber stamps for the administration,” he said.
“Instead of raising rates by 2.5 per cent each year, we need to look critically at expenses and see what can be reduced.
“I suggested to the council that the CEO report on how costs could be reduced by, say, 10 per cent but this fell on deaf ears.
“There is still too much decided behind closed doors.
“This should be done only when there is good reason to do so – there are too many documents crossing my desk stamped ‘confidential’ by the CEO.”
In his written election statement, former Cr Manning said he had opposed rates increases in the last two shire budgets, opposed cartage of raw materials through the shire on Saturdays and voted against the re-appointment of the CEO and pay rises.
Former Cr Manning said his house was for sale and he planned to leave the shire, but this could take “some years” and there was still important “unfinished business” to do.
“This includes the outcome of the current State Government inquiry and the appointment of a new shire CEO next year,” he said.
“It is up to others to judge how I have served on the council – I feel I have made a contribution and would like to keep doing this.”
Cr Ben Bell
CR BELL, who also lives in Hoddys Well, said rates were a big issue for him because of the “large number of phone calls I get about it – it seems to be the overpowering issue in the shire”.
“There is still too much waste in the budget,” he said.
“You can still get everything you want with lower rates.”
In his written election statement, Cr Bell said that in the past two years he had been on the council he had “led the push to reduce unnecessary costs and spending in the shire budget”.
“This enables the shire to allocate more money to improving vital infrastructure across the entire shire and fund more community activities while at the same time put downward pressure on rates,” he said.
“I represent you and you know I am vocal on issues, so I take your ideas to the council and give you a very clear and very strong voice on the council.
“You can see by my track record how I perform in council, and I would like to do this for another four more years.
“Vote for me and you get a guaranteed independent voice on the council.”
MR HART, from Morangup, said Toodyay rates had risen 24 per cent in the last six years but household income had risen by only five per cent.
“I’d love us to stop wasting money on hopeless legal cases and spend it on the community,” he said.
“The council ignored a 2000-signature petition last year not to raise rates.
“We can do better than that.
“I’d like to see greater transparency and more openness to public questions so that we can have a properly informed community.”
Mr Hart said people wanted lower rates, more support for local businesses, less spent on lawyers’ fees and more attention to shire infrastructure such as roads.
“For me, the council should be about listening to the community and working with you to meet community aims and aspirations so that we have a prosperous, inclusive, safe and sustainable Toodyay for the future,” Mr Hart said.
In his written election statement, Mr Hart said he “had a strong focus on financial accountability, rates, communication and the level of services available across the community”.
“If elected, I will strive to ensure that Toodyay’s local government consults widely with the whole community, is transparent in its operations, becomes truly accountable to the people that live and work here, and works to sustain our community into the future,” he said.
“That is what I will work towards.”
SUSAN PEARCE – who has fought to oppose the Opal Vale landfill site near her home in Hoddys Well – said she saw herself as an independent candidate.
“I have no affiliation to any groups or associations in the community,” she said.
“I would undertake to preserve a rural lifestyle, work for sustainable development, review rates policy, develop careful financial planning and develop communication between the council and the community.
“Development and growth are needed but should not come at a cost to our lifestyle.”
Ms Pearce said the fight to stop local landfill for Perth household waste in Toodyay had been lost but it had delayed the process by 20 years.
“There is a need to plan and promote businesses in our area and, if elected, I will work towards making the process flexible,” she said.
“Jobs could be created and are needed to keep our youth in the community and provide employment opportunities.
“If elected. I will work closely with other councillors to review budget strategies and introduce efficiencies.
“One area I would like to explore is the use of shire vehicles for private use – it may be a drop in the ocean but would be a start.
“I have integrity and credibility and am willing to listen to you as a community and your concerns.
“The choice is left to you to vote for the people you feel are going to deliver the best outcomes for the Toodyay community.”
MR GUTHRIE, from West Toodyay, said he was born 72 years ago and helped a successful campaign to stop the destruction of two tall trees bordering the town’s Anzac Memorial Park at the corner of Clinton Street and Anzac Terrace.
“I have applied for the role of councillor because I am very interested in the future for Toodyay,” Mr Guthrie said.
In his written election statement, Mr Guthrie said “I consider the ability to listen to, analyse and act on community concerns as the prime skills required by a councillor, and I am disturbed these essential qualities appear to be lacking among some of our present councillors”.
“My way forward is to promote a shire-friendly approach to planning, building and development, and to encourage community participation in all relevant decision-making,” he said.
“I am very interested in supporting developers and to ensure the shire applies every effort to support these people.
“We need to encourage businesses both new and existing, and their support of employment for our community.
“Is there a place for a council role known as an economic development committee?
“I am also interested in ensuring the ongoing support and development of volunteer groups, community organisations and community activities and programs.
“My interest in our environment is wide in both natural and built areas.”
Mr Guthrie said his community service included roles as a Julimar Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade firefighter, St John Ambulance Brigade community transport service driver, committee member of the Toodyay Agricultural Society and active military service in the Vietnam War 1967-1968.
ROSEMARY Madacsi, from West Toodyay, said she was standing for election because “the council needs to do better”.
Mrs Madacsi, who was a former Toodyay shire councillor 2011-2015, said the council needed to lead, restore community relations and bring the community’s vision of a ‘vibrant rural community that celebrates the past and embraces a sustainable future’ into a reality.
“Our council fell into the trap of ticking boxes in its Community Strategic Plan without a clear understanding of what was required to secure our future.” she said.
“Yes, stuff happens, trees get planted, repairs get done, roads get fixed – they tick a box but there is not the targeted action needed to achieve the vision the community wants.
“A lot of money gets used or wasted in the meantime.”
In her written election statement, Mrs Madacsi said Toodyay should be “the shire others envy but it is not reaching its potential”.
“Yet it can, with a cohesive, transparent and dynamic council which is willing to identify and act on economies and introduce tight financial management rather than continually increase the burden on ratepayers,” she said.
“We need efficient management, to reduce debt and build reserves, and purchase in an open market – not within the constraints of WALGA (WA Local Government Association).
“We can support low rates while investing in our community and economic infrastructure, environmental restoration and sustainable solutions.
“Failure to do so will cost this community dearly.”
MRS RUTHVEN missed the candidates’ meeting due to a family memorial service in Melbourne but her written election statement was read to the audience.
Mrs Ruthven said she had worked in financial institutions and the Australian Government before retirement, and was a qualified business studies teacher.
She earlier posted on Facebook that she was an active member of the Toodyay community, including as a volunteer bush fire brigade radio operator.
“I have a strong interest in financial matters and was a member of the Toodyay Shire Council Audit Committee 2012-2015 and again since early last year,” she said.
“During that time I have become increasingly concerned by the performance of our council and local government.
“I believe that local government should be open, honest and accountable.
“I have no vested interests which could cloud my decision-making.
“If elected, I will do everything possible to listen to ratepayers, increase accountability and transparency, bring spending under control, reduce the rates burden and ensure compliance with legislation.”