• Mayor Karen Williams at the recent Tingira Boat Club Canoe Classic
Q AND A QUESTIONS MAYOR KAREN WILLIAMS
Karen Williams is settling in to her second term as Mayor or Redland City Council. She was well supported in her re-election on the islands and we put to her questions that are relevant to her goals for her second term in office.
Q1: You were well supported by the islands in your re-election as Mayor, were you pleased with that support?
A 1: I am proud that the people of the Redlands have entrusted me again as their civic leader, and I am determined to repay that faith. I was humbled by the support I received from our islands, in particular from Southern Moreton Bay Islanders.
Q2: What do you believe was your greatest appeal to voters?
A2: I think people realised I had delivered every single commitment I made to them during my first campaign for the Mayoralty, and I think they trusted me to keep our wonderful city on the right track. They told me they saw me as a person with integrity, as someone who is genuine and who is willing to listen. I intend to prove to them that I am a person who sticks to my word and who thinks outside the square to get things done.
Q3: What do you classify as your success stories from your first term as mayor?
A3: I am very proud of what Council was able to deliver over my first term as Mayor – the lowest rates increases in South East Queensland for four straight years; Council’s first surplus for 15 years; putting Council on a strong financial footing that makes us the envy of other councils; reducing Council debt; changing the Council culture to put the people we serve front and centre every day; reducing waste and red tape; making Council more efficient, effective and responsive; having the TransLink network extended to the SMBI; helping instill more pride in our island communities; strengthening all our communities; helping generate investment and the jobs that come with growth; attracting new business to our city and providing incentives to attract even more; reviewing our planning scheme; setting the framework for an exciting future through the Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek Priority Development Areas and other major projects; boosting educational and training opportunities; establishing a high-powered Economic Development Board to implement new economic development and tourism strategies. While much has been achieved, there remains much more to be done.
Q4: And the new council, how different is it from the previous council?
A4: We have three new councillors, with a Mayor and seven councillors returned. Our test now is to turn our challenges into opportunities. To do this we need to work collaboratively with our community, with each other and with other external stakeholders. I have committed to building a unified Council that is more collaborative, to ensure we make the best decisions in the best interests of our community, and I have the support from my colleagues to do so..
Q5: Some commitments have been made for more unity with this council, are you pleased by that?
A5: I am excited by the opportunities we have in this City, and I know my colleagues are too. I am pleased that they have to a person pledged to work as a unified team. We were told clearly during the election that people wanted a Council that was unified, not the divisions of past councils. We have listened, and it is now up to each one of us to prove to the people that we can do what we have promised to do. We will not always find common ground, but we have agreed to sit down and work our way through issues, with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome for the people.
Q6: Financial management was a real success of your first term, what directions for this second term?
A6: We are on the right track and heading in the right direction. We have implemented a policy of financial prudency that is delivering results. Debt is down and we are not spending more than we can afford. We have a 10-year financial strategy in place to keep us on track.
Q7: And the Bay Islands, what areas would you like to tackle in this new term?
A7: Our priorities for the Bay islands include continuing to upgrade the roads network right across the islands. We are planning to also upgrade the jetties and address parking and public transport issues on the islands. Work is being done in that space right now. And, of course, we will continue to work with islanders to build their local economies and improve the island lifestyle.
Q8: And what about Coochiemudlo and the lack of parking on that island?
A8: Parking is an issue we cannot ignore. It is especially a problem for visitors to Coochie, and we are about to embark on a detailed review of parking hotspots across the city, with the islands an obvious priority. Part of the problem is a lack of public transport, and we will continue to lobby the State Government to improve these services, or start new services where they are badly needed.
Q9: Is the end of sand mining in 2019 still the big issue for North Stradbroke Island?
A9: This is a major issue, and one that will impact the island for years to come. Everyone knows sand mining has to come to an end, and islanders need certainty about when. The Government remains committed to cessation in 2019, while other legislation to delay the end of mining to 2024 is currently before the Parliament. Council has been working closely with the State on the NSI Economic Transition Strategy but we still have concerns about the final impact and the level of financial commitment announced by the Government. The less than $30 million committed by the State is a drop in the ocean compared to what will be needed to ensure a successful transition from mining to an alternative economy. Key to this process will be finalising land use issues, having certainty about the closure date and having an appropriate investment by the State.