By CAITLIN CROWLEY
SOUTH Burnett residents can expect one of the most interesting mayoral campaigns the region has ever seen with both a first-term councillor and a twenty-year political veteran vying to lead South Burnett Regional Council, ahead of Queensland’s local government elections next year.
For a regional council which has never had a female mayor and has seen mayoral candidates run unopposed at previous polls, the generational divide between political newcomer Kirstie Schumacher and Kathy Duff, who has sat on Council since amalgamation, presents a rare contest of contrasting ideas.
Kirstie Schumacher (pictured below) told the Caller that while she had been offered great jobs and opportunities, her heart was in the region.
“I can really see the potential for this region and I think I would regret walking away without having a go at setting a vision and being part of creating a new future for our region,” Schumacher said.
“While traditional values are important and serve us as a region, I really do believe we need some future focused solutions in the work that we do and I think that’s what I am offering and bringing to the table.
“I am, dare I say it, tired to hear that, ‘We’ve done that before or we’ve look at that before’.
“I worry sometimes that we’re looking too much in the rear vision mirror and not far enough ahead.
“I think we really need to get innovative and curious and courageous in our efforts to solve the complex challenges that we face.”
By contrast, Kathy Duff (pictured above) cited opportunities to revive pre-amalgamation era policies as a way to cut costs and make rates more affordable.
Duff said she wanted to see Council depots returned to individual towns instead of being centralised, so people could work in the town they live in and reduce unnecessary travel to places like Nanango, where the roads team is based.
“I think there’s a lot of waste in the organisation,” Duff said.
“We can have our cake and eat it too if we bring back the depots and get that local community pride back.
“I think that’s what was lost in amalgamation, but there’s nothing to stop us bringing those depots back in those towns, I believe, so that’s one of the boxes I’d like to tick for the community.”
Duff, South Burnett’s Division 5 councillor, also said she was in favour of maintaining the divisional structure of Council.
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She said she was excited about her campaign, which was officially launched at last week’s Melbourne Cup day Kumbia races.
“I’ve been a councillor for 20 years and I think it’s my time to step up and I’ve had a lot of people asking me to run,” Duff said.
“It’s all about what the community wants and I’m just hoping I can have their support because I have a lot of ideas and plans on what I can do to improve the current situation.”
Duff said she had clocked up over a million kilometres “serving the community” since she first became a Wondai Shire councillor and that she wanted to lead a Council which spent rate payers’ money like it was their own.
Both candidates stressed the importance of creating an excellent team environment on Council and highlighted the need to make changes within the organisation.
Kirstie Schumacher said she wanted to see Council have more open and honest conversations with the community about the challenges local government faces, especially when it comes to dwindling funding from state and federal governments.
Both candidates said they were looking forward to getting out and listening to the community about their ideas for the future of the South Burnett.
Incumbent Mayor Brett Otto announced he wouldn’t be contesting next year’s poll.
With two current councillors vying to replace him, his departure also creates two vacancies on South Burnett Regional Council, which Schumacher said was exciting.
“It also gives other people an opportunity who may have been thinking about running for Council, and I have had some conversations trying to encourage other people in the region to consider being part of Council and putting their hand up also,” she said.
The Queensland local government elections are scheduled for March 16 2024.