‘Concerns’ of O’Connell’s run, says councillor
A SITTING Fraser Coast councillor has voiced concerns about former mayor Gerard O'Connell resurrecting his political career, warning it could undo the council's work on environmental protection and openness.
Mr O'Connell is the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the hotly-contested Division 6 but David Lewis, the area's incumbent councillor, says there is a risk the council could "slip back into old patterns" because of his policies.
Mr O'Connell said foreshore management, maintaining the "natural beauty" of Point Vernon and Pialba and developing infrastructure were his priorities.
But Cr Lewis, who won the seat in 2016, told the Chronicle he was concerned Mr O'Connell and the people encouraging him to run had a different approach to the council's positions on environmental management.
He said the community had concerns about the lack of consultation and openness in the council when Mr O'Connell was mayor.
"My concern is he's running in opposition to policies I've been pursuing, like better environmental outcomes, illegal vegetation killing and better urban development," Cr Lewis said.
'Some have a real discontent with the 2012-16 council... some would call it divisive.
"We've come a long way since then, I'd have concerns if we slipped back into an old pattern of running."
Cr Lewis still said the ex-mayor had a right to run for the seat, as did everyone else.
Mr O'Connell denied his policies would reverse the council's progress, saying it was about "strategic infrastructure" and not just big development.
"One of the things I championed was the Esplanade Enhancement Plan... it worked through consultation about enhancement, not destruction," he said.
"If we're talking about illegal poisoning or the destruction of vegetation, we should use every means available to prosecute."
Other Division 6 candidates were contacted in regards to Mr O'Connell's nomination.
Rick Whittle said he was surprised Mr O'Connell wasn't running for mayor but otherwise wished him luck.
Karla Reardon said the area's demographics had changed considerably over the years but people "should respect every candidate that nominates".
Owen Cronin and Richard Mott were contacted but did not respond before deadline.
Other councillors were tight-lipped on the former mayor's announcement.
Deputy mayor Darren Everard said he had no opinion and welcomed any nomination, while Division 8's Denis Chapman said he would "work with him" if Mr O'Connell was elected.
Division 4 councillor Daniel Sanderson steered clear of political remarks but said anyone was entitled to "put their hand up".
Stuart Taylor, who holds Division 9, said Mr O'Connell did a great job as councillor and mayor and he said David Lewis has done an equally good job as a councillor representing Division 6.