General News

7 February, 2024

Candidates are off and racing for coveted roles

THE race for Spence St Cairns Regional Council headquarters is on.

By Nick Dalton

Candidates are off and racing for coveted roles - feature photo

The local government election campaign has officially started as councils throughout Queensland entered their caretaker periods on Monday.

Nominations for mayoralties and councillor roles have also opened and close on February 13 for the election on March 16.

To date there are five people seeking election as mayor of Cairns – three team leaders and two independent candidates.

Cr Terry James is currently mayor after been appointed to the role in November after the resignation of Bob Manning. He heads the Unity Team, also formerly headed by Mr Manning

Division 5 councillor and leader of Team Eden, Amy Eden, is seeking the top job after just one term in council.

Community first leader and long-time environmentalist Denis Walls is having a tilt at the mayoralty for the first time.

Former senior police officer Paul Taylor, whose decades-long police career ended suddenly in 2022, now wants to take on the region’s top civic role.

Businessman and independent John Kelly is running as leader of the Common Sense Party which has yet to announce candidates. 

In division 1, incumbent and deputy mayor Brett Moller starts his campaign for re-election unchallenged.

In division 2, incumbent Rob Pyne is contesting division 5, leaving a competitive field of six candidates, including former division 2 councillor John Schilling, Cairns Chamber of Commerce vice-president Matthew Tickner and high school teacher Stephen Lippingwell as independents.

Unity has put forward businesswoman Nikki Giumelli, Team Eden’s candidate is community advocate Kesa Strieby and Community First has nominated Indigenous community facilitator Patricia Courtenay.

In division 3, popular incumbent Cathy Zeiger has no independent competition but faces Unity’s business woman Heidi Healy and small business owner Marisa Seden for Community First.

In division 4, Unity’s Cr Jeremy Neal fills the vacancy left by Cr James who was elevated to mayor. 

The paramedic was controversially elected to the spot last month using the majority held by Unity councillors. Other candidates are Team Eden’s radio host Trevor Tim and independent Shane Cuthbert.

In division 5, Rob Pyne is having a third go at a division, having served in divisions 2 and 3. He is up against Unity candidate Nathan Lee Long, who is a professional project manager and former Urban Development Institute of Australia Far Northern president, and local business owner Emma Gelling for Team Eden.

In division 6, incumbent Kristy Vallely represents Unity. She is up against local business owner and independent Alan Benn, Team Eden’s candidate, and real estate agent Shane Trimby, and GP Nicole Sleeman for Community First.

In division 7, retiring three-termer Max O’Halloran (Unity) departs with pharmacist Matthew Calanna representing Unity. Also contesting the seat is physiotherapist and business-woman Anna Middleton as an independent, Community First’s Renee Lees, who is a lawyer and former federal senate candidate, and Ian Moller Nielsen, the Cairns Show Association secretary-manager.

In division 8, incumbent councillor Rhonda Coghlan (Unity) comes up against independent and last year’s volunteer of the year, Hannah Boon and 2023 woman of the year Jo Piggott (Team Eden), and  Community First’s Phillip Musumeci, who was the 2022 Greens’ federal candidate for Leichhardt.

In division 9, it will be a tough task to roll fiercely independent Brett Olds. Both Unity and Eden teams are not fielding candidates while Community First has put up Carine Visschers, who has lived in the northern beaches for 28 years and has had a long professional career in the Department of Housing and community organisations.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland has launched the 2024 Queensland local government elections advertising campaign – Vote Local.

About 3.7 million Queenslanders will head to the polls on Saturday, March 16, to vote for the mayors and councillors who will represent them in 77 local government areas throughout Queensland.

Electoral Commissioner Pat Vidgen said the ECQ’s campaign would run state-wide in the lead up to the elections and is aimed at connecting electors to the things that matter to them in their local communities.


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