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1 July, 2021

7 Candidates vying for Division 6 : Cassowary Coast By-Election

LESS than 18 months after going to the polls in the 2020 Cassowary Coast Regional Council Election, 3,400 residents of Division 6 in Innisfail will once more put pencil to paper and elect a new councillor.

By Peter McCullagh

The by-election has been triggered by the resignation of Councillor Kylie Farinelli earlier this month. Seven candidates have nominated for the vacant seat. Harry Tenni has nominated to stand again. Harry finished a few votes behind Farinelli at last year’s election.

Also standing is ex-deputy Mayor and ex-Division 3 councillor Wayne Kimberly. Other nominations include local Innisfail business-woman Renee McLeod, Antonio Ucchino, John Hutchinson, Barry Anderson and Paul Toogood.

Paul Toogood has been locked in legal issues with the Cassowary Coast Regional Council since 2017 and is a frequent critic of Council and it’s management and operations.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) Commissioner Pat Vidgen said nominations for the by-election had closed.

Cassowary Coast’s 3,400 Division 6 electors can vote early at the Innisfail Shire Hall, 70 Rankin Street, between 9am and 6pm from Monday 12 July to Friday 16 July, or vote on election day at the Innisfail East State School and Mourilyan State School between 8am and 6pm on Saturday 17 July.

 “Anyone wishing to postal vote should apply via the ECQ website before the deadline of Monday 5 July and return their completed ballot paper in the reply-paid envelope as soon as possible.

 “All voting must take place before 6pm on election day, Saturday 17 July, and the deadline for the ECQ to receive postal votes is Tuesday 27 July.”

Mr Vidgen said the voting system for a divided council is determined in the Local Government Electoral Act as optional preferential voting.

“This means electors must number one, some, or all the boxes on their ballot paper in their order of preference, for their vote to count.

“I remind Cassowary Coast Regional Council Division 6 electors that voting is compulsory,” he said.

Cairns Local News attempted to contact each of the standing candidates to canvas varied local issues to allow our readers an opportunity to understand more about where each candidate stood on key local and regional issues.

Harry Tenni, Anthony Ucchino, Wayne Kimberley and Paul Toogood responded to us by the required deadline for publication. Renee McLeod, Barry Anderson and John Hutchinson have yet to respond.


Question 1: What is the biggest issue currently facing the Cassowary Coast today, and how do you propose to tackle this issue?


Anthony Ucchino: Our biggest challenge is to properly manage ratepayers’ funds. The mismanagement of funds has created a mountain of negative feeling. We pay rates that are amongst the highest in Australia and our roads are woeful. We need to reintroduce the self-reliance that built this region. Stop paying LGAQ to do what we could do ourselves. Stop squandering on pointless legal fights. Keep the money in our shire and fix our roads.


Wayne Kimberley: The Cassowary Coast’s biggest industries are sugar and bananas which contribute approximately 60 per cent of Council’s rateable income. Following meetings with industry representatives it’s apparent there is still a high level of support needed from Council to ensure the ongoing viability of these important industries.

Career paths for our youth need to be supported by Council through industry diversification and policies that support economic growth. Council’s new planning scheme for the Cassowary Coast needs to be supported to encourage sustainable long-term investment in the region, and job opportunities in a diversified agricultural sector which complements our unique environmental assets.


Harry Tenni: As a ratepayer my personal opinion is the rates and fees charged are simply to excessive for the services provided. I want to support current ratepayers and attract young working families to this region to build our community.

Gain support from likeminded councillors to have the new CEO review the current operational model of Council and associated costs. Provide a report back to Council for consideration for the reduction of financial waste.


Paul Toogood: The biggest challenge facing Council is to get back to basics and core services and reign in expenditure - $80 million budgeted to be spent this year. Transparency and accountability to the ratepayers for expenditure went out the door with the previous Council and the current Council has kept the door shut – staff bullying from the top down has made it all but impossible for transparency and accountability to exist.


Question 2: The Port Hinchinbrook STP issue continues to roll along, with Council due to withdraw maintenance services. Where do you stand on this issue and what do you see is the long-term solution?


Anthony Ucchino: This is a private development that has failed to deliver on promised infrastructure. Ratepayers should not have to foot the bill. Local people predicted the failure but were not listened to. This is not our problem to solve.


Wayne Kimberley: I support Council’s view. Water and sewerage must be self-funded, and to take on this infrastructure could see Cardwell residents paying up to $2,000 per pedestal to operate the STP unit which is a significant impost to ratepayers.

Port Hinchinbrook is the gateway to the Cassowary Coast and this issue needs to be resolved through further negotiations with State and Federal governments, for operational funding beyond construction.


Harry Tenni: I do not support Council have the funding burden and dumping the costs on all ratepayers of the shire. Council water section does have the ability to maintain and manage this site long term. The necessary funding must be provided from the State Government to support the Council management active of the site, until a transition to user pay can be applied at a reasonable cost.


Paul Toogood: The Port Hinchinbrook STP is another transparency and accountability issue – Council holds information that I nor the ratepayers are privy to as to costings, contracts, negotiations for grants etc and as such, if elected, I will be seeking as a priority to be provided with all of the information Council holds so as I can make an informed decision in the best interests of all the community on how to go forward.


Question 3: Currently Walla’s Fish and Chip and Council are in dispute regarding tenue over their site as occupied for the past 30 years. This is potentially another ‘black-eye’ for Council. What would you like to see by way of a solution to this issue and do you feel this will be an issue for the Division 6 voters?


Anthony Ucchino: Why does Council want to destroy this small business?  Walla’s is an iconic feature of our community, that brings a lot of value for locals and tourists. Who would gain from getting rid of Walla’s? Ex Division 6 Councillor Heath has a competing business not far from Walla’s. The solution to this is to leave Walla’s alone.


Wayne Kimberley: The current Innisfail Master Plan includes the Wallas site, and Council supports it being there. There’s a lease agreement which expires shortly, and a new agreement will have to come into place. I suspect this is a case of communication breakdown and hope to see this resolved to ensure Wallas can continue to trade in its current location.


Harry Tenni: Walla’s Fish and Chip has been around almost as long as me! I aim to grow our region. I am currently gathering more details around why the decision was made. I intend to follow with the proprietor and Council, so hopefully as the elected member in about 20 days I can work to resolve this issue. With 28 years of operating my own business, I can fully feel and understand the frustration being experienced by the business proprietor.


Paul Toogood: This is an issue for the whole region, not just Division 6, and a prime example of how the current Council needs to change to focus on the community and the people and local businesses in the community. I am unsure as to why Council wants to change Wallas, I have my suspicions as no doubt do a lot of people, however, given Council is currently spending money on the riverfront and upgrading road and footpaths then surely it could install shade sails and an outdoor dining area adjacent to Wallas and keep the existing arrangements in place.

The overwhelming public support for Wallas strongly suggests that Council have made a mistake and, if elected, I will prioritise a personal investigation into the legality of what Council is doing to Wallas – is it transparent and effective process? Is it in the interests of the community? Is it ethical? Is it decision making in the public interest? Is it meaningful community engagement – all of which apply as law under Part 4 of the Local Government Act.


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