THREE new councillors will take their places around the table when Corangamite Shire resumes business for the next four years.
Wayne Oakes and Neil Trotter won their places after facing elections at the weekend while Peter Harkin’s seat was uncontested.
Corangamite is the only council in the south-west to continue with a ward tructure, with the Terang and Camperdown-based central ward having three councillors and the other four wards a single councillor each.
Mr Oakes is the new representative for the central ward, taking over from Michael Absalom who has retired. He described his win as “very humbling”.
“It’s very exciting and it’s a huge honour. I think wow — what an absolute privilege.”
Mr Oakes spent time at the Camperdown Cruise on Saturday before heading across to Glenormiston College where the results were announced that evening. “I’ve never looked at my watch so many times during the day,” he admitted.
Mr Oakes, who has never attended a Corangamite council meeting, said he was looking forward to the challenges of the next four years.
He lists the need for more doctors and the establishment of a quality tourist information centre in Camperdown as two of his main aims. A big picture idea is to create a new transport hub in the town, with a fast-rail service to send fresh produce from south-west farms to Avalon’s proposed international airport and then direct into Asian markets by the following day.
It has been a busy year for Mr Oakes who retired from the police force in July after 35 years’ service and welcomed his first grandson, Herbie, in September.
Long-serving councillor Ruth Gstrein topped the poll, winning 35 per cent of the primary vote in the central ward. She was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Cr Chris O’Connor, who was also well supported with 32 per cent of the vote, described facing a council election as “a bit like a pressure situation”.
“It’s a bit like a game of footy really. You can be 10 goals in front in the last quarter but there’s always that sense of nervousness there.” He thanked the central ward voters for putting their trust in him for another tilt.
“It’s a job where you’re not sure who you’ve upset in the last term … but I feel more enthusiastic than ever and I’ve probably got a really good handle on it now”.
Cr O’Connor said he was now keen to put his hand up to take on the role of mayor after the retirement of Matt Makin.
Chris Maguire, who was unsuccessful in his second attempt at council, expected to pick up more than the five per cent of votes he finished with. “I covered a lot of area and the feedback I got was that people were fairly dissatisfied with the council but when the results came out they still voted for the status quo.”
Mr Maguire said he was unlikely to stand for a seat in the future.
The other unsuccessful central ward candidate, Rob Fleming, a former Camperdown town councillor, did not return calls yesterday.
Neil Trotter will take over Cr Makin’s south-west ward position after defeating Simone Renyard 854 votes to 597. Mr Trotter said he enjoyed the campaign, and while he was not overconfident, thought he may have had the numbers.
He has previously taken the council to task over issues around tourism and coastal development but his campaigning also found major concerns from residents about the condition of arterial roads, rate increases and problems with roadside vegetation and weeds.
Mr Trotter predicted a “huge issue” for the new council would be the push to gain a greater slice of recurrent funding for arterial roads that were falling into disrepair.
He is also worried about the financial impact on the shire if the state government introduces more changes to planning schemes.
“If the minister brings in new initiatives and rules, there is uncertainty in planning and this is a real disincentive to investors. It is then up to local councils to take it to VCAT and create a test case.”
Mr Trotter paid tribute to Cr Makin, saying while he had differences of opinion with him on several issues, he had been a good advocate for road funding, Timboon’s new childcare centre, industries and businesses and the needs of farmers.
Simone Renyard said yesterday she was very disappointed but had no regrets about standing.
“I am really humbled by all the support from family, friends and supporters in the area,” Mrs Renyard said. She pledged to keep a close eye on the new council and urged it to take up issues she campaigned on such as attracting more families to the area, sustainable growth, lobbying for increase road funding and closer links between the shire and Warrnambool.
Cr Geoff Smith, who has represented the north ward for 24 years, was re-elected unopposed for another term while Cr Jo Beard will resume her south-central ward position after a two-year term.
Peter Harkin will represent the coastal ward after he was elected unopposed following the resignation of Cr Steve Cumming.