Positive outlook from mayor Beales
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.