Gerard O’Connell Jannean Dean, Chris Loft, Steve Coleman and Greg Schmidt took questions from moderator and chamber president Tim Powers.
Gerard O’Connell Jannean Dean, Chris Loft, Steve Coleman and Greg Schmidt took questions from moderator and chamber president Tim Powers. Hayden Johnson

FCO the hot topic at Bay chamber's mayoral debate

THE future of Fraser Coast Opportunities and securing more economic investment was the hot topic asked of mayoral candidates at the Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce debate.

Gerard O'Connell Jannean Dean, Chris Loft, Steve Coleman and Greg Schmidt took questions from moderator and chamber president Tim Powers.

Warning candidates not to dismiss the business community as an un-important and "niche" group, Mr Powers spoke of the chamber's importance to the community.

"This demographic is the one that employs and influences locally," he said.

With six FCO staff seated in the front row at the centre of the room, the future of their organisation was the main point of discussion from the beginning.

Candidate Chris Loft called for the entity to be closed and economic development arm to be returned to the Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Jannean Dean said the organisation had its problems and a fresh start was needed.

After weathering the strikes on his organisation and staff, FCO interim general manager Leigh Bennett spoke of the organisation's success.

"We just won a national award with our friends on the Sunshine Coast," he told the crowd.

Cr O'Connell claimed Cr Loft's closure of FCO would see 20 people "thrown on the scrap heap"; a comment that Cr Loft took "offence at".

The morning saw the continued competition between the incumbent councillors O'Connell and Loft.

The opposing political philosophies between the pair was evident with Cr Loft calling for the council to slow and pull he brakes on some projects.

Talking about FCO and using the analogy "I'll stop the boats", Cr Loft said he would cut wasteful spending.

Responding to that comment, Cr O'Connell promoted the entity's pivotal role in attracting the cruise industry to the region.

"We'll soon welcome P&O Cruises; I hope that's not one of the boats you're going to stop," he said.

Elevated intermittently throughout the breakfast was the viability of the Fraser Coast Sport Precinct.

Candidate Greg Schmidt used an example of existing infrastructure that was once shouted down.

"There was the same negativity around the Brolga Theatre when it was being built," he said.

"Now everyone hangs out there."