Next month will be a busy time for NSW, as almost the entire state heads to the ballot box.
A total of 124 local government areas will be holding elections on Saturday 4 December 2021, including the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC).
In QPRC, 75 candidates are competing for 11 positions on a council that oversees Queanbeyan, Jerrabomberra, Bungendore, and Braidwood.
The major parties – Labor, Liberals, and The Greens – are all present and accounted for, while the rest of the candidates are either standing as individuals or as members of independent groups.
A straw poll of Queanbeyan Community Notice Board readers on Facebook revealed a thirst for an old-fashioned return to the core issues of roads, rates, and rubbish.
“The abysmal effort made by council of filling the potholes has only made the situation worse and every downpour it gets worse,” said one. “There are countless other roads in the same state of disrepair, it’s atrocious. Dropping the speed limit doesn’t make it safer, fix the damn road.”
“I hit a pothole today and seriously it has thrown out my steering. Not happy,” wrote another.
Others would like to see plans for the dedicated Queanbeyan cinema return and, as with almost the entirety of south-east Australia at the moment, there are concerns about the lack of affordable housing.
Peter Marshall is a current councillor and said “debt caused by profligate spending is going to be the new council’s first and biggest challenge”.
The Liberals are promising a back-to-basics approach with increased investment in roads and a reduction in rates, while Labor candidates also say they will keep council rates and service charges fair while driving progress in areas such as climate action and reconciliation.
Lead candidate for The Greens, Katrina Anne Willis, says that local climate action, sustainable transport, and the protection of natural and cultural heritage will continue to be their priority.
QPRC was formed in 2016 when the City of Queanbeyan merged with the Palerang Council. It covers an area of 5319 square kilometres and, as of 2020, has a population of 62,239.
Councillors usually serve a four-year term, however, this election is for a two-year and nine-month term to bring the election cycle back in line after the delay caused by COVID-19. Once the new council is elected, they will then elect a mayor for a two-year term.
This is the second election for QPRC, the first taking place in 2017. Tim Overall was the last mayor of the Queanbeyan City Council before it morphed into QPRC. He has held the position of mayor for 13 years until October 2021 when he declared his intention to hang up the robes.
“It’s time to move on, and I’ve really been pleased to be part of the team that’s helped lay the foundation for the progression into the next 10 years,” Mr Overall said at the time.
Mr Overall said he leaves council with confidence that he has fulfilled many of his promises. He’s particularly proud of the ongoing transformation of the Queanbeyan CBD, the extension of Ellerton Drive and upgrades to local sports facilities and fields.
Region Media approached him to ask what he thinks the top three priorities will be for the new council.
He said, firstly, it consisted of continuing to deliver $250 million worth of civic, community, sporting and infrastructure projects, on time and within budget. In Queanbeyan, these include the new council building, the Civic and Cultural Precinct, and the overhaul of Monaro Street.
Secondly, he said the new council would need to revisit the QPRC’s financial situation as laid out in the Long Term Financial Plan 2020-2030. Community consultation on this has concluded and it is due for review.
Last, but not least, “meeting community expectations on road maintenance and improvements”.
The Queanbeyan Ratepayers and Residents Association (QRRA) is holding a Meet the Candidates Forum from 6:30 pm on Monday 15 November at the Queanbeyan Bicentennial Hall on Crawford Street, where members of the public will be able to listen as candidates outline their visions and then ask questions.
Pre-polling for the council election opens 22 November and closes on 3 December 2021. It is available at the Axis Youth Centre in Queanbeyan, Jerrabomberra Community Centre, and the QPRC Council Offices in Bungendore and Braidwood.
Voting in the election is compulsory and if you do not vote you may be fined. To update your enrolment details or find out where you can vote on the day, visit the NSW Electoral Office website. You can also check your eligibility to vote online with the iVote system.