A LEADING businesswoman is preparing a bid for the next Warrnambool City Council election, saying persistent infighting can only be solved through a spill of all seven councillors.
Raelene Ponting has kick-started a two-year campaign which she hopes will encourage more fresh faces to stand for council and deter the incumbent seven councillors from re-nominating.
The Pontings Hardware owner-operator said Warrnambool had a proud history of local leadership which had been tarnished by the behaviour of current councillors.
“We elected seven people to council and all they do is argue like children,” she said yesterday.
“Our council is broken. They’ve refused to settle their differences like adults.
“All seven councillors need to go. They’ve had plenty of time to stop this rubbish and they decided to keep on going. It’s just embarrassing.”
Her announcement to run comes days after the latest spat between Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh and councillors Peter Hulin, Brian Kelson and Peter Sycopoulis over budget briefing attendance.
Friction was also evident between councillors Sycopoulis and Jacinta Ermacora during a debate about the AquaZone diving board last week. Dozens of residents have encouraged Mrs Ponting to stand for council after she made a public call for unity earlier this month over the divisive Commerce Warrnambool levy proposal.
The veteran businesswoman said the levy debate was an example of councillors failing to work with the business community and ratepayers more broadly.
“I’ve had so much support from people I don’t even know,” Mrs Ponting said.
“They’ve told me they want a voice for residents and want to get rid of the personal agendas.
“My campaign isn’t about me — it’s about getting fresh blood on council and we need more people to put their hand up and say ‘we need a change’ over the next few years.”
Mrs Ponting said sorting out the Commerce Warrnambool levy and the future of the municipal saleyards would be high on her list of campaign priorities. The next municipal election is not scheduled until November 2016 but Mrs Ponting believes the two-year waiting period will give more people time to join the fight for a new council.
She said Warrnambool needed new city councillors who would present a united front and pointed to former mayors Glenys Phillpot and Jack Daffy as examples. “I’ve seen plenty of councils over the years and they’ve worked together as a team,” the 51-year-old said.
“You’ve got one side that wants to sit back and be part of a club and the other side always criticising and repeating the same old issues. It wasn’t that way only 10 or 15 years ago when we used to have a sensible council.”