Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

JOHN Atkin­son be­came a coun­cil­lor in what was ar­guably one of Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil’s most chal­leng­ing times.

It was May, 2014, coun­cil­lors were walk­ing out of meet­ings, there was a near-riot at a coun­cil meet­ing moved to the Bowen PCYC to ac­com­mo­date the record crowd and Divi­sion 2 coun­cil­lor Kevin Collins had re­signed.

Cr Atkin­son won the re­sult­ing by-elec­tion and im­me­di­ately walked into a sit­u­a­tion where by his own ad­mis­sion “the at­mos­phere was not good”.

In fact the day he walked in was the start of the 2014–15 bud­get “and I was told coun­cil had run out of money – not an easy way to start”.

But Cr Atkin­son wasn’t de­terred and he’s putting up his hand for a se­cond run.

“I’ve been in busi­ness for 30–40 years and I’ve been up plenty of dry gal­leys so I know how to stand up and fight,” he said.

In the past near-two years at the job, Cr Atkin­son lists his achieve­ments as help­ing to pay down coun­cil’s $10 mil­lion emer­gent loan, re­duc­ing the over­all bor­row­ings, fight­ing for the Whis­per Bay boat ramp and restor­ing some sort of har­mony to the board­room ta­ble.

“It was quite sim­ple re­ally – I’d just talk to them and we’d all work to­gether,” he said of his fel­low coun­cil­lors.

Cr Atkin­son sees the ma­jor is­sues cur­rently fac­ing the re­gion and his divi­sion as wa­ter short­age, traf­fic and of course rates.

“We only had a 2% in­crease this fi­nan­cial year and I’d cer­tainly hope to keep our rates down be­cause they’re ex­pen­sive,” he said.

As for the con­tentious is­sue of build­ing heights, Cr Atkin­son said he was happy with the way he voted at the last coun­cil meet­ing of 2015 – for an amended ver­sion of the town plan with lower heights than the orig­i­nal draft.

“And I’m all for the air­port (ex­pan­sion) – 100%,” he said. “I think our air­port’s the fastest grow­ing in Queens­land at the mo­ment and that’s great.”

STAND­ING FIRM: Cr John Atkin­son wants to re­tain his role.

Photo: Sharon Small­wood

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