6 March, 2024

Meet the Somerset candidates

A lively ‘Meet the Candidates’ event took place in Kilcoy last Thursday night, being the last stop on the Somerset tour.

Meet the Somerset candidates - feature photo

Thirteen of the 14 councillor candidates attended, along with both mayoral candidates: Sean Choat and Jason Wendt.

Two of the biggest themes of the night were in regards to the damaged roads across Somerset and the encouragement needed for businesses to open and flourish in the region, with both mayoral candidates having the most input on the topics.

Mr Choat emphasised the need of marketing the Somerset region as “business friendly” and having to push State Government to release industrial and commercial land in order to allow businesses to grow.

“We need to provide job opportunities in Somerset and bring people here for work, not push them to Moreton, but to do so we need to provide the means,” Mr Choat said.

“To do so, transport needs improvement and we need to fix the roads so people can actually get to work.

“What has been done (to fix the roads) is not good enough and I won’t put up with it!”

Mr Wendt expressed the same sentiment, sharing the story of his son, who needs to travel outside of Somerset for work, due to no businesses existing within the area for his trade. Mr Wendt, however, had a different focal point on the issue, namely land planning.

“We live in a perfect spot, being between the city and the ‘outback’, but the current business plan (for the region) isn’t working,” Mr Wendt said.

“Having increasing residential land but no industrial land causes a fracture between work and living requirements, so we need better long-term land planning.

“TMR does band-aid road repairs everywhere and it’s just not good enough, as there is no point in opening businesses if people can’t get to them.”

Another popular point of discussion for the night was tourism, with Mr Wendt calling the agricultural sector the “untapped tourism sector”, and Brett Freese, Michael Bishop, Bob Whalley and Alistair ‘Bud’ Smith emphasising the need to make the Somerset Dam and Wivenhoe Dam useable for recreational activities.

They all suggested ways of dealing with SEQ Water to allow for this use, with Mr Bishop’s strategy of “change and improve the relationship Council has with all government organisations including TMR, SEQ Water and State Government”, being met with agreement by the other candidates.

One of the questions posed to councillor candidates Tiara Hurley, Sally Jess, Kylee Isidro and Alastair ‘ Macca’ MacDonald was specific to Kilcoy tourism, regarding ways to boost the town’s tourism, seeing as Kilcoy doesn’t benefit from the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

Ms Hurley suggested putting emphasis on and investing in event opportunities at the Kilcoy Showgrounds and making Kilcoy appealing as a “stop along the way” for travellers heading to the Rail Trail.

Ms Jess also suggested making the website more user friendly and better promoting events happening in town, while current councillor Ms Isidro revealed that money had already been allocated towards a trail linking Moreton Bay and Kilcoy.

Lastly, Mr MacDonald suggested a community garden and emphasised, once again, the need of investing in new businesses, so tourists will want to stop and shop for the day, as well as stay the night.

A final point mentioned was how Somerset was going to benefit from the 2032 Olympic Games.

All candidates agreed that Somerset wasn’t going to see a massive influx of tourists, as promised, but four candidates were asked to suggest alternative ideas to profit from the event.

Mr Choat explained his strategy as being “to sell Somerset products to Brisbane, instead of focusing on bringing the Olympics to Somerset”.

Glenys Willocks suggested appealing to the families and friends of the athletes, instead of the athletes themselves, encouraging them to come to Somerset in their downtime, even if just for the day. Bronwyn Davies emphasised the need for Somerset businesses to collaborate “to bring people in”, and Helen Brieschke also suggested supporting local businesses and growers to encourage day trippers.

The ‘Meet the Candidates’ event lasted three hours and all candidates were very passionate about their causes and answers.

The audience was very engaged and had interesting questions, holding the candidates accountable for their responses.

Mr Wendt ended the night on a positive note, saying “country life offers freedom; That’s why we all choose to live here and we want to keep our rural lifestyle”.

Elections will take place on March 16.


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