Sixteen candidates stand for election on the Moree Plains Shire Council

Election day is this Saturday, December 4.
Election day is this Saturday, December 4.

In the lead-up to the Moree Plains Shire Council election we have posed four questions to the candidates...

1 What is your vision for the Moree Plains region?

2 What do you think is the single most important issue facing the Moree Plains area?

3 What projects/developments do you intend to advocate for if elected as a councillor?

4 What expertise or attributes do you have which would help you in undertaking the role of councillor?

Here are the answers from the candidates who responded...

Kerry Cassells

Kerry Cassells

Kerry Cassells

1. My vision for Moree is that we support our Inland Rail, Trans4m rail and Special Activation Precinct in bringing a thriving hub of new businesses and employment into our town and shire villages. With these ongoing businesses new housing estates will need to be developed to support the workers and their families who will make Moree their home. Indigenous employment has doubled since Inland Rail and Trans4m rail arrived. With this new infrastructure, grain will get to the ports faster, take trucks off roads, rural roads will have less damage and access will be better. Farm to train, easier, quicker, less trauma to our roads. Moree will once again be the 'town on the move' that it had always been. Clean up the burnt out houses as quickly as possible by getting more grant funding to do so and continue making the owners responsible as well, which is happening now but faster would be better. Make all rural roads accessible during the wet times by regular upgrades, maintenance and re-sheeting and encouraging self-help with support from council. Make Moree a tourist destination by working with Tourism Moree to showcase our best features in Moree and the villages, which also have a lot to offer.

2. Provide job security, good education, feature our Aboriginal culture, get our Country University Centre and University New England hubs up and thriving. Have a plan for droughts and flooding before the events arise. Maintain a good Police force by having the numbers on the ground to provide the best protection for our town and villages. Maintain our area as the richest agricultural shire in Australia. Our area brings in near 1 billion dollars annually and we need to advertise that fact more often.

3. Main projects is the town hall refurbishment, 50 metre pool re-development, a youth refuge, new supermarket and more development on the Gateway, and new housing estates in Moree and the villages.

4. After being a councillor for five years I have learnt a lot, gained experience in dealing with the hard decisions and mostly by maintaining confidentiality when necessary. Being a councillor is all about dealing with issues that affect both a small amount and large amount of residents in the town of Moree and the villages. It's not all about roads, rates and rubbish, but they are very important to the community when it comes to costs and accessibility. It's being able to speak to all our residents and help get their issues dealt with. It's being able to make the right decisions for all residents. It's being on committees that are essential in having the right outcomes for all. It's being able to work with other councillors to get the best results. To say it's a pleasure and worthwhile is an understatement, it's such an amazing opportunity to do the very best you can in making the best decisions for everyone. I have been blessed to work with outstanding councillors and council staff. We are a good team and I hope to continue to be part of that good team, so much more to achieve yet.

Mekayla Cochrane

Mekayla Cochrane

Mekayla Cochrane

1. Genuine and proactive community participation in decisions and feedback, reconciliation throughout the Shire, commitment to young people - which means the voices and experiences of young people are represented, better ways to deal with crime; boredom is not criminal behaviour, better parks and a pool for all our kids and families.

2. Council commitment and accountability to the people living in Moree Plains.

3. Growth development and recreational support for children and young people and their families and carers. This includes following through on current projects and new projects and developments. Shading over the skatepark. Fairer and more equitable access to a public pool. Parks in the Moree Plains including maintenance and upgrades. -Better ways to deal with crime. Instead of surveillance cameras, invest in programs, people and infrastructure. Create a crime prevention strategy with community input/consultation. Install a bail house. -Pool and recreation activities for the whole Moree community. Affordable entry fees to the Moree pool (when it opens). Building relationships with the water ski park for public use during summer months. Provide transport to surrounding town/villages with public pool. -A Reconciliation Action Plan update that includes: local cultural awareness training, an Aboriginal steering committee and identified positions on MPSC. -Supporting young people. Established Youth Council with encouragement for diverse young people to be involved. Moree, Boggabilla and Mungindi need more after hours activities for young people including a 24/7 drop in youth centre. Weekend programs.

4. I believe Moree Council should lead by example. As a Councillor I will lead by getting things done. I will listen to community and act on community's aspirations. I have a strong commitment to advocating for the Moree Plains community. I bring strong community links into the Moree, Mungindi and Boggabilla community. I am an advocate for the rights of young people and work to support young people. I am accountable.

Glen Crump

1. To see Moree grow and be more inclusive. Taking in to consideration our youth are our future, including them and listening to their ideas, making them feel like their views are taken seriously. Acting, promoting and working on better relationships between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal residents; making sure people from all walks of life concerns are taken on board. Making sure our villages across the shire are not forgotten. Maintaining and keeping all parks across the region to attract people to stop in our towns. Improved walking tracks being open and transparent to our community. Improving the dialog between councillors and community, giving them more ways to have their issues raised. Working towards a youth safe house and better coordination with all government and non government agencies to make sure everyone is playing a part in improving our community.

2. The majority of people I have spoken to consider the pool reopening as the major thing. It links in to a lot of areas such as things for kids to do, tourism and positive promotion for our town.

3. Youth inclusion and encouraging young people to be part of our community, reopening of the pool, reestablishing the Moree Plains Shire Council Reconciliation Plan and achieving its goals, establishing a Indigenous Advisory Group to council, maintaining dialog with the communities of the smaller villages, maintaining and future developments to parks and recreation facilities, continuing to support community groups and sporting organisations, more positive media coverage promoting our town, attracting new business to town to promote employment opportunities.

4. I am a proud Moree man, born and raised. Moree is my home. I have worked in the community since the age of 12 and have been involved in a number of organisations. I am an open book and do not pretend to have all the solutions but I am always open to hear from anyone regardless of if I agree or not, I will take their views up. I am a team player and will work every day if elected to represent and help the people of Moree. My phone is always on for a discussion about anything.

Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett

1. My vision for the Moree Plains begins with the strong community attitude where we work together to achieve stability between our agricultural sector, small businesses and our youth to give a good quality of work/social lifestyle.

2. My major concerns surrounding Moree Plains is the elevated crime rates and the destructive, troubled youth. Also a large concern of mine are the unsealed roads in the shire.

3. I would like to develop projects that allow harmony in these children's lives but also allows them to have something they have left their mark on and they could be proud of such as landscaping projects. I feel this will break the stigma around Moree's youth and allow us to lift the presentation of the town and our surrounding villages. Also working on developing ongoing upgrades for our roads throughout our shire as this is something close to my heart as I have grown up in one of our surrounding villages.

4. In all honesty, if you're asking for expertise in this department I am behind the eight ball as I am just an average Joe but one thing I do bring to the table is a focused, hard working attitude founded on common sense with the desire to achieve great things in our town and surrounding villages.

Murray Hartin

1. Being on the junction of two major highways we are geographically gifted. We have to work hard to attract businesses who in turn attract more people. We also have to generate more tourism options to encourage tourists to stop over and to stay longer. More businesses, more people and more tourists leads to greater prosperity and stability. The community has to work hard to create greater harmony and provide protection, opportunity and hope for our kids who are, obviously, the future of the Shire.

2. Everyone would agree the aquatic centre is our greatest tourist attraction so it must be resurrected as soon as possible but we also desperately need a halfway house for our kids. We have young people sleeping rough and doing it tough which can be a catalyst for bad behaviour and criminal activity. All kids need a chance so we need a designated facility to provide not only a safe haven but potentially direction and opportunity.

3. From a tourism angle, as we are recognised as the agricultural capital of the Southern Hemisphere, I would love to investigate the possibility of establishing an historical farming venue with small plots of wheat, barley, sorghum, cotton etc farmed with vintage machinery loaned by local enthusiasts. The vision would also include a functional three-stand shearing shed built from materials gleaned from old sheds around the district, a walk-through pictorial museum paying tribute to our agricultural history and a similar museum recognising our indigenous history and culture. It could be the venue for events such as Tractor Pulls, Vintage Car Club gatherings and a portable outdoor cinema screen. I think we also need to establish a couple of annual festivals such as a Big Sky Art and Photography weekend and some fun festivals to be held at villages and towns around the Shire. I would like to work hard with local businesses and contractors to give them every opportunity to win tenders on major projects within the Shire. This way the money stays in the Shire which has to be a good thing. I have previously mentioned a halfway house for our youth and I would consider that a priority. People far smarter than me have their heads around The Special Activation Precinct, the state of our roads and a host of other issues but I would welcome the opportunity to be part of the process.

4. I was born in Moree in 1963, went to kindergarten in Pallamallawa, primary school at Moree Public, 1st Form at Moree High and then I went off to boarding school. While I spent a lot of time away from Moree after that I was always back at least a couple of times a year. It's always been home to me. I love the joint. I love the people. I came back for a year as editor of The Moree Champion in 2001 and moved back permanently in late 2014. I spent a couple of terms as President of The Chamber of Commerce and had a brief stint on the board of Moree Tourism. While my career as a poet may not make me an obvious choice as a councillor, I have good mates all over the Shire and I believe I can give them a voice.

Michael Ivanov

With the momentum of good crops, high sheep and cattle prices and the inland rail Moree finds itself in a time of high employment opportunities and development far beyond what we would have envisaged only a few years ago. This combined with an influx of government spending to help with the Coronavirus and the rail precinct has set Moree up for years to come. It is now important for both the Council and Chamber of Commerce to develop a strategic plan to keep the advancements going. Already we can see the population growing and it is the need to sustain and keep this direction after the rail development moves on and we as a Shire help the public sector develop new business frameworks to take full advantage of the infrastructure that is available to rural and urban businesses and workers. My previous 10 years as a councillor '99-09 (two as Deputy Mayor) has given me a head start in being able to settle in should I be elected. Also, never has there been a time when both the federal and state representatives for our region have both been so pro-active. We need to continue working closely with both. I intend to continue my work in helping residents clean the town of burnt out houses and working in with the police on the many law and order issues.

Kelly James

Kelly James

Kelly James

1. My vision for the Moree region is growth. We cant achieve this without change. We have a housing and rental shortage in Moree and the change I want to see is in the form of opening up parcels of land for subdivision and creating a more open market for property development right across the Moree Plains. Our surrounding towns and villages are full of potential for growth; from tourism to regional development and encouraging more people to call the Moree Plains home for the long-term.

2. It is very hard to pin point one single issue that encompasses the whole shire. I think that ensuring the shire has adequate services and facilities are crucial to not only keeping people in the area but encouraging others to settle in the Moree Plains. Residents want something to call their own. Obviously we as a community are not yet privy to the circumstances surrounding the pool closure, this in itself is a huge issue facing the Moree community at present and will no doubt be at the forefront of discussions for the newly elected council. Pool issues aside, for the surrounding towns and villages, adequately resourced roads are something that have been called for, for some time now. Personally I would like to see the development of a sealed all-weather ring road circumventing the Moree Plains so that in times of drought when erosion occurs and floods - where we seem to loose functionality of many roads - residents would still be able to access a road into town or other parts of the shire. Crime within the Moree Plains has also been a big issue. The community as a whole needs to come together and agree on tactics to deal with this and be backed up by council support. For such an large shire we have very little in the way of funding through rates and hard decisions will have to be made in terms of how money is spent across the shire.

3. I will be pushing for Moree Plains to seek further funding through state and federal grants in order to adequately service subdivision growth, tourism growth, better access to all weather roads and all weather sporting, play, youth and event facilities right across the Moree Plains.

4. I hold qualifications is Business Management, Project Management, Civil Construction, Work, Health & Safety and I am currently studying a Bachelor of Criminology & Criminal Justice. I have expertise is stakeholder engagement and strong networks within Moree and surrounding villages. I have a wealth of knowledge in Local Government and the private sector with 16 years direct experience within Moree Plains Shire Council. My current role as a Justice Advocate has seen me be able to converse with a wide cross section of Shire residents and given me an incite into some of the hardships and barriers we as a community face.

Mark Johnson

1. I am a long term resident of our Shire. I want it to grow, I want it to be better. My vision for our Shire is that it becomes a preferred destination for new business and new residents. An area where people come because of what we are, who we are and the opportunities that are here.

2. Population decline in my opinion is our big issue. As population declines, services decline and this issue is being faced by many regional towns. Our new Council needs to develop and implement strategy to address this issue.

3. Short-term, Moree needs its iconic pool reopened. This is a major issue and I am a huge advocate for this to occur. The Moree Special Activation Precinct (SAP) is a longer term project and probably the biggest challenge and opportunity for the new Council. This type of development can lay a foundation for growth that our Shire has not seen in many years. I want to make a contribution to this project. Our Shire is agriculturally based, it is who we are. Our road network is essential to that industry and the success of our Shire. It should always be a priority for Council.

4. I am a Chartered Accountant and partner at C & W, having led our firm for a decade. I also am the current Chairman of the McGregor Gourlay group. My professional experience includes Local Government audit, including the audit of our Council. I am driven, positive and organised but moreover absolutely passionate about this Shire.

Mike Montgomery

Mike Montgomery

Mike Montgomery

1. We build on our strengths: Utilise the Special Activation Precinct (SAP) to grow secondary business to process our primary production, partner with the Local Aboriginal Land Councils and tertiary education providers to encourage indigenous business development, and further develop the artesian Industry to focus on future internal tourism.

2. Recovery from the drought, floods and Covid that has harmed so many over the past years. Council should get back to basics, and complete what has already begun, before we take on more work. Urgently repair the rural road system, using flood damage funding and additional Council dollars to better the previous road condition, and finish the numerous Shire-wide projects, like the Moree pool, Civic Centre and various sports facilities that are months or years behind. Get the fundamentals right. Build strong foundations, and make it "built to last".

3. Attract business to the SAP, supporting new and early entrants that are large and long-term employers, engage with the education sector to develop the skills our locals need to match the emerging needs of business, and build a road system that allows local businesses to be competitive in complex and evolving national and international markets. Council's role is the local part, and we need to do better!

4. As a young man, I knew everything and was confident in that knowledge. As I've aged, I'm increasingly aware of how much I don't know. What I do know however, is that unless we work together, and all play our part, we will miss our chance to build a great future here on the Plains. And I know our best is still to come.

Lisa Orchin

Lisa Orchin

Lisa Orchin

1. My vision for the Moree region is for it to be a vibrant, prosperous and a sustainable region supported by forward thinking and strong leadership. The Moree region needs to reverse the decline in population by attracting people with the needed skills to enable us to receive the best medical care, quality education, day-care facilities and social activities for the wider community.

2. Having lived in many areas of the Moree Shire I understand the limitations of living in remote areas. Our Council must work towards improving our shire's road network. Access to markets for farm produce, school bus runs, service-vehicles from town businesses and the ability for residents to access towns for medical, social activities and services is of utmost importance. Without an improved road network, the sustainability and prosperity of our district is questionable.

3. Roads! Why did the Moree Aquatic Centre pool close and what needs to be done to re-open it? The Special Activation Project (SAP) will strengthen Moree and bring new business opportunities and economic growth. The potential is endless for our agricultural sector with freight efficiencies and more marketing opportunities for our produce. Our smaller towns must have a voice to ensure services are not only maintained but improved.

4. I have been involved in a successful agricultural business for over 25 years and have the skills to make decisions based on sound economics. I am organised, motivated and a passionate advocator for our small towns and understand the need for them to have representation on council.

Susannah Pearse

Susannah Pearse

Susannah Pearse

1. A thriving community and a great place to live, work, play and visit, with a well-functioning Council that supports community and business growth and development.

2. There are two - dependency on agriculture and population loss. Our ag industry is amongst the best in the world, but it is likely to continue its downwards employment trend. We need to diversify. It is not all doom and gloom through, the Moree Special Activation Precinct has the potential to stimulate new industry development and attract new investment to the region. There are also opportunities in tourism and renewable energy, amongst other industries. Our population is expected to decrease over the next 20 years and we need to turn this trend around by boosting the livability of the region though providing quality community facilities and advocating for improved education and health services, recreational opportunities, digital connectivity and community safety.

3. It is a travesty that the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre has closed. Reinstatement of the 50m pool, reopening of the centre and a plan for financing and undertaking longer-term necessary works needs to be put in place as a matter of urgency. There are also many grant-funded community projects which are yet to be completed, which need to be expedited. Roads are also a critical area that needs addressing.

4. Having worked at the Council for over four years, I have high level working knowledge of the organisation, and combined with extensive corporate and other local government experience, will bring practical solutions for how it can be done better.

Brooke Sauer

Brooke Sauer

Brooke Sauer

1. I want to see a business community that thrives, where we have the capacity to support and invest in our community to create economic prosperity and sustainable jobs. I am passionate about ensuring the Moree Plains is a safe environment and community for our children. A community that attracts people to want to start or progress their career here.

2. I believe the Moree Plains can do better in facilitating and delivering a strong strategic direction. Getting this right, will have a positive domino effect on liveability, investment, creating economic stability and a platform for advocacy for much needed support services, including health, education and infrastructure.

3. The first agenda items will be to open the town pool, as quickly as possible and find a solution to our road maintenance challenges. My passion projects include the Special Activation Precinct and ensuring it creates economic stability for our shire. Greater transparency and accountability where councillors consult, involve and represent the community for the betterment of everyone. Supporting our local businesses to thrive, creating stable careers for our locals whilst attracting people to relocate and stay.

4. I represent a fresh perspective and new vision for 'what could be'. I'm a problem solver, experienced in research, project management, technology, innovation and strategic planning. I bring together skills, people, resources and out of the box thinking to create solutions where everyone benefits. Confident and considered, highly motivated and invested in the Moree Plains, I will roll my sleeves up, and find the tools to bring results.

Greg Smith

I'm seeking re-election to complete the work we have done this term of council. We need to grow the population by providing secondary industry and a liveable Shire with good facilities and transport. 34% of the population don't live in Moree but need good roads for education and access to employment. I have lobbied for roads with the gravel resheeting budget being increased annually to $1m along with a $700,000 concrete causeway program. Grant funded sealing will continue to be sought for our major roads. The major achievement for this council is the Special Activation Precinct and the opportunity it provides for investors to come to Moree with range of industries and be building within weeks rather than the years it can take for red and green tape. We have interest from entry level employers right through to technical processing and renewable energy. Drought proof industry. Katrina and I sat down with acting PM, Barnaby Joyce recently to push the case for the East West link to take 900 trucks per day off Greenbah road during harvest. We also reduced the cost of recycled water to the golf club. They are now installing course watering and storage tanks to water at night for the best efficiency, an example of how council can improve sporting facilities and amenity without borrowing, building and running it. We can't be the great entertainers but council needs to provide conditions where the private sector will fill the gaps. On the pool, we now have plans ready to go to tender after an unacceptable delay. We would not build a pool that wasn't certified by an engineer to protect the rate payers. Other projects I'm pushing are to cover our car parks with solar panel shade structures, providing shelter, EV charging and mini grid power to council buildings. This will make summer shopping more appealing with a cool car to return to and grant funding is available to cover the cost. The project fits my ethos of debt retirement and functional necessary projects. I've had five years with a great council full of passionate people with a work ethic in their committees of choice. I've have a good relationship with our federal and state members and have had the ear of acting PMs as a result. I will continue to advocate for all residents, improve what we have before building more, reduce debt and always be mindful I represent a positive community and a great place to live.