Debt, development, planning schemes: Election heats up
SUNSHINE Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson has gone on the front foot defending the transparency of his council, its decision-making processes and backing a range of big-ticket game-changing projects from SunCentral to the airport examination.
But in a radio forum on the ABC Sunshine Coast that also included challengers Chris Thompson, Michael Burgess and Don Innes, he said he did not know the full cost of the council's legal defence of its decision to approve the contentious Sekisui House Yaroomba decision.
Cr Jamieson said he had been part of a majority 6-5 vote to approve the project.
"Council officers recommended a planning scheme amendment and I supported that decision," he said.
When questioned how much the council's legal defence of an appeal brought by residents who raised more than $400,000 to challenge the approval, Cr Jamieson said, "I don't have the number".
He said the new council would have the opportunity to reveal it.
The Save Yaroomba group has backed Mr Thompson's bid for the top job.
Cr Jamieson refuted claims by peak resident association group OSCAR, denying his council had gone into closed session 208 times in the past four years, saying there were only 12 ordinary meetings a year.
OSCAR president Melva Hobson later said the council's practice had been to group individual items into a single closed session covering several.
Ms Hobson said the 208 total was accurate and identified the number of individual matters considered behind closed doors.
Mr Innes described the council's culture under Cr Jamieson as "aggressive territorialism", promising a broad review of council local laws if elected.
He said cultural issues had resulted in the council becoming predatory in its competition with private enterprise, adding serious reform was required to put an end to in-house fiefdoms.
Mr Burgess called the council's SunCentral development a financial disaster generating no revenue and being effectively vacant space.
Cr Jamieson took aim at claims by Mr Thompson that the council had a debt bomb coming, saying it was easy for him to commit to a debt-reduction strategy when one was already in place.
Mr Thompson said "blind Freddie" could see the council was in way over its head.
"My approach was sequential and disciplined," he said.
"We always had a higher cash balance than debt.
"This council has whittled that away and we are on the precipice."
Mr Burgess described SunCentral as an illusionary movie set, looking good on the front but having no substance when the door was opened. He predicted it would ultimately morph into a precinct of apartment towers.
Mr Burgess said the Sunshine Coast needed a change of direction to an economy sympathetic to the lifestyle and environment the community wanted protected.
"At the moment we have a council that has moved entirely away from being a council," he said.
"They're some sort of quasi-business that's been operated extremely badly."
Mr Thompson said he was someone the community could trust to uphold the integrity of the planning scheme to ensure the balance was right between development and the environment.
Cr Jamieson pitched his council's credentials saying it had "done really amazing things in the environment".
"I would urge people to consider the stability and the consistency of council in the next term," he said.
Don Innes appealed to voters to "invest your trust in me and it will return a profit manyfold".
Who do you think deserves the mayoral seat in the 2020 Sunshine Coast Council?
This poll ended on 29 March 2020.
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