The Bundaberg Regional Council logo.
The Bundaberg Regional Council logo.

A look at Bundaberg’s new council

BUNDABERG Mayor Jack Dempsey is likely to have six returning councillors to work under him, as well as four new faces.

It has a total 111 years of local government experience, but this figure does not consider state government knowledge that Cr Dempsey has earned as a cabinet minister.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland has not called the election, and the former council remains in caretaker mode.

However, these are the 11 personalities likely to be representing the Bundaberg Regional Council in the next four years:


Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey leaves a recent parliamentary inquiry into the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. Picture: Chris Burns.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey leaves a recent parliamentary inquiry into the Mon Repos Turtle Centre. Picture: Chris Burns.


Mayor Jack Dempsey

JACK Dempsey's first name is John. He turns 54-years-old next Tuesday, grew up in Ipswich and is a former police officer who has been stationed across Queensland.

He has lived in Bundaberg for 20 years, of which almost half that time was spent serving as State MP.

Cr Dempsey was a cabinet minister under the LNP Newman government, but despite his representation for the party he has taken great care to have a bipartisan relationship as Bundaberg Mayor.

He crushed his four political opponents in the 2016 local government election, with 71 per cent of the vote.

There was a seven per cent swing against him in this election, but he still easily defeated Helen Blackburn, who held the governance portfolio in his previous administration, and political outsider Kirt Anthony.

Cr Dempsey recently formed a coronavirus stimulus package which so far relies on the authority of his CEO Stephen Johnston while the council is under caretaker mode, but it is expected that the council under Cr Dempsey will address that further in the new budget.

"The new council will face the most extraordinary challenge to ever confront the Bundaberg region in peacetime," Cr Dempsey said in the last council meeting.

"The challenge for council is to provide relief and support while being financially responsible to ensure that essential services continue to operate."



Mayor Jack Dempsey and Division 1 candidate Jason Bartels advocate a master plan for Moore Park Beach during the campaign trail.
Mayor Jack Dempsey and Division 1 candidate Jason Bartels advocate a master plan for Moore Park Beach during the campaign trail.

Division 1: Jason Bartels

INCUMBENT councillor Jason Bartels has not yet announced a victory over Scott Allison and Peter Wyatt, but so far he has a nine per cent lead.

Cr Bartels openly endorses Mayor Jack Dempsey for the direction taken in the last four years.

He wants the council to expedite a master plan for Moore Park Beach, and to address the neglected Moore Park Beach Surf Life Saving Club building.

Cr Bartels is a plumber by trade and in the previous council held the water and wastewater portfolio. He has eight years of local council experience.

According to his council profile, Cr Bartels served four years as a Maranoa regional councillor but he relocated to the Bundaberg area in 2012, where his family already owned property. He did not run in the local government election that year.

In 2016 Cr Bartels won the Division 1 seat in what was a tight contest. He was 68 votes ahead of incumbent Alan Bush, and 94 votes ahead of Greg Messenger.



Deputy mayor Bill Trevor with a Local Government Association of Queensland certificate for his years of service.
Deputy mayor Bill Trevor with a Local Government Association of Queensland certificate for his years of service.


Division 2: Bill Trevor (OAM)

ISIS farmer William Trevor is the most experienced local councillor in this chamber, although that depends on the definition.

He is often quiet in the chamber except to offer procedural advice, but when pressed into a discussion, his voice bellows across the chamber.

The reporter can think of two council debates within the past year that Cr Trevor was involved in, which were about Moneys Creek and a proposed Anzac Day plane flyover, and he did not lose either of them.

The incumbent deputy mayor has worked 26 years as a councillor, although not at once, and had been the mayor of the former Isis Shire Council. He also received an OAM in 2009 for his contributions to Childers.

He wants to see a new neighbourhood centre and a relocated and upgraded treatment plant for Childers, and he said there had been much spending in his area, such as for the $18 million Gregory River Water Treatment Plant.

Cr Trevor also wanted a national partnership between governments to support local apprentices that were at risk of losing their positions, and to see if the council could take them on.



Cr Wayne Honor.
Cr Wayne Honor.


Division 3: Wayne Honor

THIRD generation McIlwraith cattle farmer Wayne Honor has 16 years of local government experience, and while he has been doing that his wife Judy has been leading their operations.

He has hardly needed to be involved until last summer when they faced drought.

"I want to see other families stay on the land, and I want to see other families stay in business," Cr Honor said recently.

Cr Honor prides himself on being an independent voice in the council chamber, and was neutral when asked before the election which mayoral candidate he endorsed.

He said the council's response to the coronavirus pandemic needed to be "measured" in liaison with Queensland Health advice.

Yesterday he described the pandemic as "the most important time in history."

"In my lifetime I've never known anything of the likes, and I think that Bundaberg yet is to really come to grips with how serious this issue is," he said.

Cr Honor occasionally declares a perceived conflict of interest in the ordinary council meetings, usually regarding governance issues, as his son is a council staffer who often compiles relevant information.


Tracey McPhee.
Tracey McPhee.

Division 4: Tracey McPhee

ALOWISHUS Delicious cafe owner Tracey McPhee is a newcomer to the council, and is someone with personal insight as to how the coronavirus has impacted small businesses.

She was born in Bundaberg, left school at 16 to work for the Wide Bay Capricorn Building Society, and married and raised a family here.

The McPhees started up Alowishus nine years ago, and late last year she said they employed 55 staff across three businesses.

Two weeks ago she said the cafe's downturn dropped 30 per cent overnight, following the diagnosis of the first coronavirus case in Bundaberg.

"I believe council should do everything it can to support small businesses because they are the ones supporting local jobs," Mrs McPhee said.

While she was openly neutral about who she supported as mayoral candidate, she also supported a pitch by mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn to freeze rates for a year to help struggling families who were working on a reduced salary.


Greg Barnes having a cup of coffee outside the Bargara Bakery.
Greg Barnes having a cup of coffee outside the Bargara Bakery.

Division 5: Greg Barnes

THIS month marks 20 years that Bargara councillor Greg Barnes has represented the local council. He was first elected into the former Burnett Shire Council in 2000, and has made it through six election campaigns.

He is among the most politically experienced councillors in the chamber, prefers having an independent voice, and is unafraid of criticising a council policy if he disagrees with it, particularly when it comes to Bargara.

This has resulted in tension in the council chamber, especially in 2018 when the council discussed approval of the Jewel development. He had declared several conflicts of interests, including having a dinner with the developer, Sheng Wei, and other councillors decided he could not vote on the subject.

More recently Cr Barnes spoke in the Mon Repos Turtle Centre parliamentary inquiry, during which he observed that woodcarvings, solar panels and an aquarium should have been included.

The committee's acting chairman said, "I was a councillor for 12 years, I know what pride you take in your role."

To which Cr Barnes said, "you didn't have Bargara."


Tanya McLoughlin.
Tanya McLoughlin.

Division 6: Tanya McLoughlin

THIS division is closely contested between massage therapist Tanya McLoughlin and cafe owner Kelly Woods, who both stepped forward after Cr Scott Rowleson's decision to step away.

But Mrs McLoughlin is so far ahead by almost 300 votes.

The Bundaberg Zonta Club president's political motto was "authentic heartfelt communication" and she believes people mostly want to be heard.

"That's what I'm about, bringing everyone with you, not climb on top of everybody to get there," she said when announcing her candidacy.

She moved to Burnett Heads with her son 15 years ago after visiting friends in the area.

Mrs McLoughlin had described herself as shy before starting up her business Deeper Essentials 10 years ago.

"I'd quite often be in the background just doing things in the community, and having that business has brought that out a little more, and I feel I can communicate a lot better," she said.

She has expressed a wish to carry on the work of the previous council, particularly with the upgrading of drainage and sewerage. She also wanted more community facilities such as men's sheds and gardens.

"Growth needs to go hand-in-hand with a good lifestyle for everyone from our young families to senior citizens," she said.



Vince Habermann is confident in his chances of being a new Bundaberg Regional Councillor. Picture: Mike Knott.
Vince Habermann is confident in his chances of being a new Bundaberg Regional Councillor. Picture: Mike Knott.

Division 7: Vince Habermann

THE Shalom College assistant teacher already has local government experience, and he used to be a staffer under the former Bundaberg MP, Jack Dempsey.

"I've known Jack probably since pretty much he arrived in town," Mr Habermann said.

"I've been friends with him, coached his kids, so it will be good to reunite."

Mr Habermann was also a NewsMail sports editor, and the Division 4 councillor under Mayor Forman.

He was defeated by Helen Blackburn in the 2016 election, who had twice the amount of support that he did at the ballot box.

Mr Habermann was not considering running again, especially when Tracey McPhee declared her nomination, but decided to run for Division 7 when Cr Ross Sommerfeld announced his retirement.

He has actively been involved in the Bundaberg sporting community for decades and believed it was something he could bring to the council table.

"I know lots of people, I'm empathetic, I understand that people are hurting, I understand some people are disgruntled at the moment with council and that," he said.

Mr Habermann said the new council was looking to be "shaping to be a very exciting, fresh team which will work well and for the betterment of Bundaberg and the region."


Bundaberg Regional Councillor Steve Cooper in Buss Park. Picture: Chris Burns.
Bundaberg Regional Councillor Steve Cooper in Buss Park. Picture: Chris Burns.

Division 8: Steve Cooper

STEVE Cooper is a former hardware store owner, currently holds the finance portfolio, and entered the council in the 2018 by-election.

Cr Cooper filled the position left vacant by David Batt, who became Bundaberg State MP after defeating Labor candidate Leanne Donaldson in the 2017 election.

Cr Cooper is openly a Jack Dempsey supporter, and denounced mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn's promise to freeze rates for a year.

He also describes himself as a numbers man in the council chamber, expressing a view that he needs more than half of the councillors in the chamber to achieve what he wants.

Cr Cooper also answered 12 questions given to candidates in the lead-up to the election, even though he was guaranteed a position due to lack of challengers.

He is mindful of the impact of the state election held later this year, saying that the state government is "holding all cards" when it came to securing a Level 5 hospital, local water security, and flood mitigation.

"Both sides of politics must commit in the upcoming election to deliver these essentials for Bundaberg," he said.


May Mitchell.
May Mitchell.

Division 9: May Mitchell

MAY Mitchell has the capacity to change the council dynamics. She is a newcomer to the council chamber, but has been employed as the council's senior revenue recovery officer.

She has worked for local councils for 33 years, which has been tallied into the new council's total 111 years of experience.

Mrs Mitchell was born in Mount Isa and worked for council there, as well as in Townsville, before moving to Bundaberg 25 years ago.

She ran for Division 6 in 2016, losing to Scott Rowleson. The shape of the division had changed in a review before that election, which disadvantaged her campaign by pushing her address into Division 9.

Some of the subjects she discussed in the campaign included alternative access for Belle Eden Estate residents, the possibility of an annual kerbside bulk collection, and the possibility of making Daph Geddes Dog off-leach area more pet and owner friendly.

"This central recreation spot is underused. Onsite seating, shade, water and lighting for inclusive and comfortable use during the day and early evening would change that," she said in early January.

She said the council needed to assure ratepayers that it understood not everybody would be able to meet their rating commitments.



John Learmonth pictured at Southside Shopping Centre.
John Learmonth pictured at Southside Shopping Centre.


Division 10: John Learmonth

JOHN Learmonth is the quiet, well dressed, silver haired gentleman in the chamber.

He already had quite the profile. His family owned the site where Southside Shopping Centre, and Learmonth's Foodworks, is based for over 70 years.

Depending on the subject, Cr Learmonth has had to be mindful of that ownership, occasionally declaring a perceived conflict of interest in the council chamber due to the similar development projects.

But this week it was announced the sale of Southside Shopping Centre was approved for $11.8 million.

"So I'm not in need of a job, that's one thing I insist … I'm in it for the community, not for the dollars," Cr Learmonth said.

Cr Learmonth was a retiree apprehensive about entering local government when he campaigned for the 2018 by-election, which had been held by the late Peter Heuser.

Back then he was caught by surprise at the favourable vote, so much so that he had to cut short a trip to Perth where he had committed to a yacht racing competition days after the election.

Cr Learmonth said he struggled to adapt to the council in the first three months in his role.

"I look back now and it's quite simple. I was trying to do too much myself without going through the right channels," he said.

But he warmed to the role and no longer referred to it as a job, and yesterday, less than a week after the election in which he was reluctant to formally declare victory, he was taking photographs of drains in his division.

He publicly endorsed Cr Dempsey in the election campaign.

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