NOT sure who to vote for Chirnside Ward? We put the tough questions to all candidates to help you make up your mind - read on for their answers.
All candidates have been sent the same questionnaire. We will post their answers as we receive them - check back here regularly for updates.
Candidates have been given until October 6 to submit their responses. The Weekly has chosen not to edit the responses in any way, except for legal reasons, meaning what you see is exactly what you get.
Candidates were advised to write N/A for questions they wished not to answer. The Weekly has indicated where no contact details were provided or where candidates declined to take part.
Incumbent Richard Higgins will defend his seat against just one other candidate. It includes Chirnside Park and part of Mooroolbark. Locals here are most concerned about development in the Chirnside Park activities centre, and preservation of the green landscape amid moves towards higher-density housing.
At the 2008 election:
Registered voters: 11,914
Voter turnout: 9885 (82.97 per cent of the total enrolment)
Formal votes: 9651
Informal votes: 234
Candidates (in ballot order)
Name: Richard Higgins
Suburb of residence: MooroolbarkOccupation: Police Officer
Ward nominated for: Chirnside
How long have you lived in Yarra Ranges? 22 years
Have you run for council/ been a councillor before, or any other level of government? If so, please list details (where, when, length of time, etc). I am the current elected councillor for Chirnside Ward. I was elected 4 yrs agi and this was my first term as a councillor.
Are you/have you been a member of a political party? If yes, which party? If no, with which party do you most identify? No. I am independent.
Are you or have you ever been a member of a political interest or lobby group? No.
If you are elected, will you commit to remaining a councillor for the whole term? Yes, absolutely committed.
What is your campaign budget? Who is funding your campaign? I funded my own campaign and it is keep at a responsible level to limit the impact on my family budget.
Who will you direct your preferences to? There are only two candidates so no real options.
Describe your involvement in the local community. I am actively involved in multiple community committees and working groups throughout the Shire. I am a supporter of local sport and connect with community youth by organising and running the local Police “Blue Light Disco.” I chair the Graffiti management group and am currently establishing the HOG (Haters of Graffiti Volunteers) group.
What do you think being a councillor involves? Having been a serving councillor for the past 4 years I understand the time commitments required for the research/study and the need for a hands on approach for any issues. I understand the need to also continue being involved with the community to establish connects and properly understanding of their needs and expectations’.
What do you think are the most important issues for your ward? To ensure that future developments within the ward are properly planned and completed with respect given to the current residents and the impacts these developments can have on them. Infrastructure and the capital works programs need to also be properly coordinated to compliment these developments and make the whole entire area a wonderful place to live.
What do you think are the most important issues facing Yarra Ranges? The hardest thing and most important issue facing our council is to have the ability to recognise and maintain its current beauty whilst still having the capability and wisdom to change and develop it as a vibrate community for the future. It is easy to say one issue such as rates is the issue but all areas are of equal importance and need to be looked at holistically if we are to achieve our goals.
Where do you stand on the logging currently taking place in Toolangi? Should it be stopped or does it have a rightful place to continue? I believe that there is a place for logging to continue in appropriate locations that do not effect water catchments or important habitat areas. Is Toolangi one of these locations that are appropriate? I am not overly convinced.
Is enough being done to try secure higher education in the shire once Swinburne’s Lilydale campus closes? Council has been and will continue to be a leader in the efforts to retain the Swinburne site as an educational facility. I am an absolute supporter of this site remaining an educational option for our residents and the youth of the future.
Should the urban growth boundary be extended further in the Yarra Ranges? What sort of development would you allow? This cannot be an easy yes no answer. There are a number of areas where the urban growth boundaries could be extended but a substantial amount of work needs to be done to qualify the strategic need for this to occur. I do also believe there are some small pieces of land that are Green Wedge abnormalities that could likewise be assessed.
Yarra Ranges Council is looking at a $15 million bill to top up the local government super fund. Is a rate rise justified to pay this unexpected fee? From memory it was a $13 million bill and unfortunately yes it still needs to be paid for. I do not believe a one off rate rise to cover the entire amount is warranted. A combination of proper budgeting and appropriated levels of spending reduction should be the first option to deal with this issue coupled with an investigation into alternative sources of income and advocacy to eliminate this debt with aid from the State Government.
Name: Andy Witlox
Suburb of residence: Chirnside Park
Occupation: Project Manager
Ward nominated for: Chirnside
How long have you lived in Yarra Ranges? I’ve lived in the Yarra Ranges for my whole life. I love the area. I particularly enjoy taking my kids to local parks, cycling the Yarra Ranges trails and hacking up local golf courses. I’m bringing up my family in Chirnside Park and I expect to live here for the rest of my life. I’m a young community leader, but I understand the issues facing young families and I’m highly competent financially. That’s what our council needs right now.
Have you run for council/ been a councillor before, or any other level of government? If so, please list details (where, when, length of time, etc). I have never run and have never been a councillor before. I’m a project manager in the financial services industry and I have a graduate diploma in applied finance. I can run the council budget better than any of the existing councillors, without increasing rates and without piling on debt. The 2012 update of the Council Plan shows they want rate revenue to increase by 28% and debt to increase by 8,000% over the next 4 years. These kinds of increases would not be necessary if the council knew how to manage the budget. I can fix this.
Are you/have you been a member of a political party? If yes, which party? If no, with which party do you most identify? No, I’m not a member of a political party. I think there are too many politicians in political parties, you can’t trust them (yes, I see the irony here!). Politicians have to follow the party line, so you never know what they really think.
Are you or have you ever been a member of a political interest or lobby group? No. I’m generally sceptical of political interests and lobby groups. I’ll listen, but only act when I’m convinced they represent the majority view and if their objectives don’t leave anyone worse off. I have committed to supporting the Safe, Well and Connected plan for Womens Health, but this is obviously beneficial to the community and has no detrimental impacts on anyone. I think serving politically correct interests and lobby groups instead of ratepayers is why the existing council has become so out of touch. We need a balanced approach to this. I’ll act in the interests of the quiet majority.
If you are elected, will you commit to remaining a councillor for the whole term? Yes. I’m young, fit and resilient. I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting the Council focussed back onto basic infrastructure and core services within a balanced budget.
What is your campaign budget? Who is funding your campaign? It’s $200. Unfortunately that’s really all I can spare, but donations are welcome! My budget will be used to print up some flyers with my family helping to hand them out. I wish my budget could be higher, but like many young families, I have a big mortgage and other rising living expenses.
Who will you direct your preferences to? There’s only one other candidate, Richard Higgins. He’s the existing Councillor for Chirnside. It’ll be tough for me to win with only myself vs. him. But it’s really a simple choice for the people of Chirnside. It’s between the old existing Councillor, or a fresh new candidate who has the financial background and skills to get the budget problems fixed.
Describe your involvement in the local community. My community involvement revolves around my kids. Their school events, their swim school in Chirnside Park and Karate in Mt.Evelyn. But I think what the people of the Yarra Ranges really need now is someone on the Council who knows how to get the budget under control, someone who will stop the unjustified rate increases and stop the wasteful spending. If that isn’t fixed now, rates will have to rise much more in future.
What do you think being a councillor involves? Well, I think it involves listening to what the local community wants and then delivering it. As a councillor, I will represent the rate payers first and foremost. This will involve a considered and balanced approach to community issues and responsible management of council resources and budget. I believe ratepayers are customers of the Council, we’re not a funding source for special interests and self indulgent projects. We’re paying for services and we should receive value and quality.
What do you think are the most important issues for your ward? The first one is the excessive rate increases. Although not everyone in Chirnside has been hit hard by this yet, a 28% increase in rate revenue is written into the Council Plan. Council should do whatever it takes to contain its expenses so they don’t have to be passed on. The next issue is the beautiful park like setting we’ve lost with the golf course moving. We’re losing magnificent old trees that attracted native wildlife, while there are empty paddocks only 1km away. We need to look at the local planning laws so we can balance development without losing parklands.
What do you think are the most important issues facing Yarra Ranges? The exorbitant rate increases are being felt by everyone. Our money is being wasted on pet projects and self indulgent schemes while basic infrastructure such as roads, carparks, footpaths and recreational parks are neglected. We need change. We need council to address the budget problems as the number one priority.
Where do you stand on the logging currently taking place in Toolangi? Should it be stopped or does it have a rightful place to continue? We all want our environment to be protected, but we should also support our local industries. This does have a rightful place to continue as long as it’s done legally and responsibly, which I believe it is. Most importantly, I think the local community should be listened to first, and Council should do what the local community wants.
Is enough being done to try secure higher education in the shire once Swinburne’s Lilydale campus closes? More can be done here. It was clear from the meeting at Mt.Lilydale that the community wants this kind of facility. Council is probably doing the best they can, but the challenge now is to attract a suitable provider. I’m still young enough to know what appeals to students and would love the opportunity to take up this cause.
Should the urban growth boundary be extended further in the Yarra Ranges? What sort of development would you allow? Well, I don’t want to see urban sprawl creep everywhere. But squeezing increasing populations into higher density developments while unused land is all around us is illogical. We’ve lost the golf course in Chirnside Park to developers while there are empty paddocks around the corner. I don’t want parklands being developed. Instead I will consider allowing larger properties to subdivide, provided local residents approve and environmental concerns are addressed.
Yarra Ranges Council is looking at a $15 million bill to top up the local government super fund. Is a rate rise justified to pay this unexpected fee? I don’t understand how this can happen. If Council was making monthly contributions to council workers super, like every other employer, this couldn’t have happened. I promise I will properly manage the budget if I’m elected. Other spending will have to be trimmed back to cover this mistake. Rates payers should not pay for this, we’re not a resource for Council to plunder.