Caretaker Mayor Helene Cameron and Councillors Bob Merriman, Peter Russell and Susan Salter are standing for re-election.
They are joined in the race by former Councillor David Kenwood, prominent heritage consultant Boyce Pizzey, Police Senior Sergeant and Chamber of Commerce chief Tony Francis, young Greens campaigner Stephen McGain, former international businessman Rob Minty, leading tourism voice Ross Ebbels and Louis Baker, who boasts a background law and finance.
A number of issues have emerged as key to the outcome, including the future of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse Reserve, the state of Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff front beaches, growing the municipality beyond Fellows Road and a newly released plan to segregate sport and camping at the Queenscliff Recreation Reserve.
Nine of the candidates made their pitch for votes at a recent community forum, co-hosted by the Point Lonsdale Civic Association (PLCA) and Queenscliff Community Association (QCA).
After eight years, caretaker Mayor Helene Cameron said she is seeking a third term to help drive unfinished projects.
“I believe a confident and experience female Councilor is necessary to the balance of the council, that’s why I’m standing as a council, who will continue to dedicate my skills, my passion, my honest and my enthusiasm to making the Borough of Queenscliffe a better and safer place for all ages,” she said.
Having previously declared he was unlikely to seek re-election, Cr Russell said his mind was changed by the recently-released Our Coast Project report into the likely impact of sea-level rise to hundreds of residents in our municipality.
The retired accountant, who was prominent in Our community’s Save 600 campaign some 10 years ago, says he wants to play a leading role in ensuring residents are kept informed about the threat and potential mitigation works.
“Once the state government says [sea level rise] is going to happen, a bit like speed cameras and speed, you’ve got to say it’s going to happen and we have to evolve our community and our reaction to that,” he said.
“It is our community out of all the communities that is most at risk and there is no one immune to it in this community whether your house is up above or below.”
Former Mayor, Australian Industrial Relations Commissioner and Cricket Australia Chairman Bob Merriman highlighted the Borough’s strong economic credential over the past eight years as part of his pitch for a third term.
“We’ve maintained above state average performance in every category of the independent [community] satisfaction survey, we are in top three position in statewide financial sustainability, whilst at the same time we’ve reduced our debt [and] we’ve achieved the lowest rate increases in recent years on a statewide basis,” he said. “Certainly we’ve got finalise the camping, sports and recreation project, the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse open space project including the heritage review and finalizing work on the front beach.
Sergeant Francis drew applause when he criticised current Council’s spending on consultants and pledged action on Toc H and local beaches.
“I don’t need consultants to tell us which toilets we need to fix up first. I don’t consultants to tell us what the community want…I don’t need consultants to tell us the beach down here is no good,” he said.
“If you guys give me the mandate, within a month I will be knocking on Spring Street, demanding Dan [Andrews] give us $10 million of the Port of Melbourne sale proceeds…he’s made a bucket of money, I want him to fix up my beach. Our beaches are a disgrace and how we can let them get to that is a disgrace.
“Four or five years ago the community spoke so loudly about what should happen there and I can guarantee within six months I’ll rip those bloody buildings down if I have to do it myself,” he told the meeting.
After several years on the sidelines former Councillor Kenwood said he was throwing his hat back into the ring to give a voice to protection of local heritage and the environment.
“No tall and ugly buildings along our foreshores and no high density development would be my recommendation,” he said.
“The borough of Queenscliffe doors are now open,” is the slogan adopted by Mr Ebbels, a prominent local tourism and hospitality industry identity. “That means for business and also the community.
“I think we really are the envy of the state of victoria and we went to keep it that way,” he said.
Having run international travel and photographic businesses, Mr Minty retired to Point Lonsdale permanently 10 years ago. He took aim at outgoing Councillors for not doing enough to protect what makes the municipality special.
“What matters to me is putting the needs and amenity of residents first. They are the electors, they provide the majority of the income, and it’s their services and amenity we should be looking after.
“It’s really important to redefine why we’re all here, why we’ve all come and what we want to maintain and retain here in Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff,” he said.
Councillor Salter outlined her vision of the municipality in 50 years to the meeting; “I’m hoping the Council is still here and it’s very viable because over the past four years we’ve been operating in the black and next year we will have no loan that the council owns,” she said.
“I’m hoping that the lighthouse reserves are long since resolved… I hope all of our heritage buildings are still here, loved and preserved and I hope you’re all complaining about all the trees we planted between 2012-2016.”
Mr Pizzey, the former Heritage Victoria Director, is currently finalising construction of the Monash Centre in France – Australia’s Western Front monument - for the federal Government.
Once completed, he plans to turn his sites on why our towns are not “alive and singing” like other small tourism villages around the world.
“Whilst I think there has been an enormous amount done and whilst I think there has been an enormous amount of energy go into things I have yet to find an individual …who is totally enthusiastic about where Queenscliff is going.
“I’ve got a great deal of optimism about what can happen down here,” he said.
Stephen McGain and Louis Baker were unable to attend the meeting.
In his candidate statement, endorsed by The Greens, Mr McGain said he wanted to see the borough reach it’s true potential.
“Some of my key areas of focus include supporting and encouraging initiatives that increase the viability of local businesses, ensuring that the community has a genuine opportunity to participate in council decision making, investing in sustainable infrastructure and services and ensuring we have a strategic long term plan that will propel us well into the future for generations to come.”
Mr Baker, meantime, said he would “strive to ensure Queenscliffe remains one of the safest andmost desirable places to live.
“It is time for a change and balanced sensible representation.”