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Friday, April 12, 2024

Shine says divisions are a bright idea

Ahead of the 2024 local government elections on Saturday, 16 March, incumbent Councillor Kerry Shine is championing the cause of divisions as a means for better representation in the Toowoomba region. The proposal entails creating geographical divisions within the Toowoomba Regional Council: four for Toowoomba and Highfields, and one for the rural areas, encompassing Clifton, Cambooya, Pittsworth, Millmerran, Oakey, Crows Nest, and Yarraman. Under the current system, there’s uncertainty among residents about whom to contact and which portfolio councillors represent. Despite efforts to engage with rural communities, this sentiment persists.

At a previous Council vote, eight out of eleven councillors supported the proposed changes. Notably, the three opposing votes came from councillors with backgrounds in the old Shire Councils: Mayor Paul Antonio (Millmerran), Carol Taylor (Cambooya), and Bill Cahill (Crows Nest). Cr. Shine pointed out that as councillors from the original shires retire or are voted out, there’s a risk of all councillors being from Toowoomba City. Additionally, the concentration of five sitting councillors in East Toowoomba raises concerns about equal representation across the city.

Cr. Bill Cahill has led opposition to the proposal, expressing concerns that divisions may foster factionalism, prioritizing the interests of specific constituencies over the broader region. However, Cr. Shine argues that examples like Ipswich City Council demonstrate that divisions can function effectively without encouraging factionalism. He notes that residents in rural towns generally support the idea, missing the accessibility of councillors seen in the past.

Another proposal suggests a ‘pie solution,’ with divisions radiating from the centre of Toowoomba.

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