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Q AND A MAY EDITION MARK EDWARDS





CR MARK EDWARDS Division 5 Redland City Councillor Mark Edwards has announced he will not be standing for re-election at the next Local Government elections, scheduled every four years and set for 2024. That means Mark Edwards will remain our councillor for another two years. What does he still have on his agenda in that time? Q: You have been our councillor for the past 10 years Mark, why did you stand for the position way back in 2012? A: From 2001 I was building homes on Russell Island and found Council very difficult to deal with in all areas. I felt that we were a burden for them, at least that’s what it felt like to me. Back then it was different. Mostly dirt roads, no police and not the infrastructure we have today. I felt that the islands were neglected. I started complaining a and my wife said to me, if you want to make a change then run for Council. I threw my hat in the ring but honestly, I thought I had no chance. The night of the election results I was just sitting at home, no party or anything, and when the result came in it was totally unexpected. To look back on my life, that was the most humbling experience I have had, to have peoples’ trust placed in me. Q: By the time the 2024 election comes around, you will have been our councillor for 12 years, is that time enough for any form of representation? A: I feel our elected members should benefit from real world experience before they enter politics. I am against the idea of political representation for life. Good governance and leadership benefits from change of representation. We have many dedicated elected members who do a great job and will continue to do so, however, democracy survives because of perpetual change of representation and leadership. I have had many successes but feel that after 12 years it is a time to pass on the baton. We need to support our next Councillor, whoever it may be, because it is a role that can be very hard on them, their family and friends. They will need to work in an environment that would be unacceptable to many. Q: How has the diametrics of the Redland City Council changed over your time on council? A: Well diametric is reconciling opposites so in Council every Councillor is independent and therefore there are 11 different views. Every election brings a change of some Councillors so it’s an ongoing process of reconciling people with different views to your own. I have tried to be “centred” and empathise with the needs of each Councillor. In doing so, I try to have them understand the needs of Division 5 and the islands. It’s about negotiation, support, planning and understanding. Each Council term is different but it is always a challenge. Q: Are we better off with the council we have today, compared to the one you were first elected to? A: Instead can I sidestep that with a different question? Which is: ‘do I believe we should have our own island Council?’ In 2013 I gained support of Councillors to ask the State government for our own islands’ Council. An ‘islands-only’ Council would actually be larger than most of Queensland Councils today. That was rejected by the State government of the day. However, I still believe the island community should be afforded the opportunity to vote if they wish for an islands Council. I would not be part of any new Council but I believe an islands Council focus is significantly different to a wider Council focus. It means focusing island resources on island needs and I think our residents need to decide if this is a path favourable to them. Q: For you, what have been the most significant changes at council in relation to our islands? A: The last decade has seen a big shift to providing funds to improve the islands infrastructure. The work is not finished by a long way, but funding improvements have been significant. Q: And what of the demographic changes to our islands because of some of these changes; how are we different today? A: It’s a double-edged sword. More improvements to the island’s has seen a population growth surge with new residents that are more cashed up and have greater expectations. That in turn needs more funding for better infrastructure. Q: The Division 5 electorate takes in the Southern Bay Islands and part of Redland Bay, and two other divisions take in Coochiemudlo Island and Victoria Point as well as North Stradbroke Island and part of Cleveland, is this a desirable representation? A: I think that each of our SMBI islands are different in their needs and the community focus. However, they are bound together by transport, entry hubs, services and representation and friends on each island. They are very different to the needs of Stradbroke Island and Coochie and I think the idea of representation by one Councillor because they are part of a number of islands is a mistake. More Councillors representing islands gives a better outcome when it comes to supporting them. Q: Collectively there are now about 12,000 people living on the six islands attached to Redland City Council, isn’t it time for a change to at least a sole council representative for the six islands, given their similarity in needs and living circumstances? A: I answered this earlier, however I think the best islands Council would be for SMBI and not including Stradbroke or Coochie. I love those two islands but they are logistically difficult to serve as a collective. SMBI is going to grow in population up to 20,000 or more and our needs are going to become more focused in the next decade. Q: Mark, what is still on your agenda before you hang up your council representative shingle in two years’ time? A: There is so much more to do and more to come. It’s not about me or legacies and anyone wanting to become an elected representative, should forget about themselves. It’s about trying to deliver what you can for the islands, (remember you need at least 5 other Councillors to support you or you are lost). I will have projects that are new and will be delivered over the next two years but more importantly I need to get projects on the books after that time. It takes about two years to get a project designed costed and budgeted, if you have the support for it. I want the next Councillor to have a raft of projects ready to go and that’s my role right now. I have two years of hard work and enthusiasm in front of me. My reason to announce that I would not contest the next election is to foster people to put their hands up to run as the next Councillor. Someone who wants to continue improvements for the SMB islands. I have a duty, a responsibility, to our community to encourage the best of our people to run for Councillor. I am more than open to talk to anyone thinking about running next term about the pros and cons of the role. I can promise one thing, it will be different to what you imagine, and what powers you actually have.