Pos­i­tive out­look from mayor Beales

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY COLIN MACGILLIVRAY

Newly ap­pointed Ararat Ru­raly City Coun­cil mayor Peter Beales is con­fi­dent the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s tur­bu­lent times are be­hind it as he looks for­ward to 12 months in the top job.

Cr Beales re­placed out­go­ing mayor Gwenda All­good at a coun­cil meet­ing last week, win­ning se­lec­tion four votes to three.

Cr Jo Arm­strong will con­tinue as deputy mayor.

Cr Beales has pre­vi­ously served four terms as mayor of Mur­rindindi Shire Coun­cil in Vic­to­ria’s north-east, in­clud­ing a stretch from 2009 to 2011 af­ter the Kinglake bush­fires.

He in­her­its Ararat’s may­or­ship af­ter a tu­mul­tuous two-year pe­riod for the coun­cil, and will be­come the city’s fourth mayor in that span. In Au­gust last year a State Gov­ern­ment Com­mis­sion of In­quiry found fail­ings in the coun­cil’s gov­er­nance, in­clud­ing its rat­ing strat­egy, bud­get and com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion pro­cesses.

The is­sues largely stemmed from the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to abol­ish dif­fer­en­tial rates for farm­ers.

The gov­ern­ment ap­pointed a mu­nic­i­pal mon­i­tor to over­see the coun­cil’s ac­tions for a pe­riod of two years as a re­sult.

In April this year the coun­cil en­dured fur­ther con­tro­versy when then-mayor Glenda Mclean re­signed af­ter propos­ing to per­form her du­ties on a fly-in-fly-out ba­sis from north Queens­land.

Cr Beales said the coun­cil had al­ready changed its ap­proach and was com­mit­ted to win­ning back the trust of the pub­lic. “There are only four of the orig­i­nal coun­cil­lors left from when we were elected back in 2016, so it is a dif­fer­ent group,” he said.

“We have a mon­i­tor and she’s get­ting very lit­tle work, be­cause for the past six months or so we’ve kept to the rules.

“We’ve been open, ac­count­able, hon­est and re­ally quite proac­tive.”

Cr Beales said he was look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing work on coun­cil projects that were al­ready un­der­way.

“In this year’s bud­get we’re spend­ing six-mil­lion dol­lars on roads,” he said.

“That’s al­ways one that peo­ple look at and they can’t tell the dif­fer­ence – and I can’t some­times – be­tween State Gov­ern­ment roads and ours. So they’ll see a lot of ac­tiv­ity there.”

Cr Beales said the con­tentious is­sue of rates would con­tinue to be a talk­ing point.

“I think one of the prob­lems is al­ways go­ing to be the rates, and I note the Coali­tion is go­ing to have a re­view on farm rates if elected,” he said.

“They re­ally need to have a re­view on rates in gen­eral, not just one sec­tor.”

Cr Arm­strong is a Na­tion­als can­di­date for a West­ern Vic­to­ria Re­gion up­per-house seat at next month’s state elec­tion.

Cr Beales said Cr Arm­strong had taken leave from coun­cil du­ties un­til af­ter the elec­tion and would re­sign from coun­cil if elected.

“She’s an ex­cel­lent can­di­date for state gov­ern­ment and if she’s suc­cess­ful I’ll be very pleased for her,” he said.

“I’ll be very pleased if she’s un­suc­cess­ful be­cause she’s a great coun­cil­lor and I think she should be the next mayor.”

Cr Beales said he was ex­cited about the po­ten­tial for growth in the re­gion.

“I think this area – not just Ararat, but other places like Stawell and Hor­sham – has a lot of po­ten­tial,” he said.

“We have low un­em­ploy­ment and we have lots of jobs avail­able, but we can’t get peo­ple to come this way.

“If peo­ple ac­tu­ally saw what gold mines these com­mu­ni­ties are, they’d be swarm­ing out here.”

Af­ter the con­tro­versy of the past two years, Cr Beales said there was one way to mea­sure the suc­cess of his ten­ure.

“The best thing I could achieve is if at the end of 12 months, no-one re­mem­bers me,” he said.

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