LIGHT’S OUT: Retiring councillor’s warning to candidates
MOMENTS after announcing his retirement, Fraser Coast councillor Rolf Light delivered some stunning parting shots at the State Government.
The outgoing councillor, who has served in local government for eight years, said increasingly strict State Government regulations would put people off running for council.
"If you're a councillor who sticks their head above the trenches, the State Government will shoot it off," Cr Light said.
He said jailed ex-mayor Chris Loft's situation was an example of how badly things could go for a councillor who made what he saw as an "honest mistake" with "no evil intent".
"The State Government has to remember councillors and candidates come from the community," Cr Light said.
"We're not professional politicians."
Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the State Government was introducing reforms to "strengthen transparency, accountability and integrity" in councils.
One of these reforms, he said, was "So you want to be a councillor" training, which every nominee must have completed before putting their hand up to run for council office.
"Almost 2000 people across Queensland have completed this training, which suggests to me that far from being put off, the desire to run for local government is very strong," Mr Hinchliffe said.
Cr Light said expectations around the declaration of personal finances would make prospective councillors think twice about running for office.
"If you don't declare a $2 account in your kid's name, you could be hung, drawn and quartered," Cr Light said.
"They're putting so much onus and regimental requirements in place, people won't be willing to take the risk.
"You could now make a fundamental mistake, with no evil intent, and you could be suspended, fined, ridiculed and you could go to jail."
Mr Hinchliffe said penalites and fines were in place to act as adeterrent.
"The reality is that the majority of our local government councillors have the best interests of their communities at heart," he said.
Cr Light last year expressed concern about the treatment of Mr Loft, saying he considered not recontesting division five because of the ongoing issue.
He told The Chronicle these concerns did not play into his decision to retire, saying a confidential business opportunity and family responsibilities were his reasons.
Despite concerns about State Government involvement, Cr Light said he left the Fraser Coast Regional Council "on a high".
He said he was proud of the way the council had "got on with the job" in the wake of Mr Loft's dismissal and subsequent court case.
"In the last two years particularly, given the headwinds, I think people think we're doing a good job," he said.
Prudent budgeting and strides forward in disaster management were among his key achievements during his time as a councillor, he said.
He stopped short of throwing his support behind any of the division five candidates but said he was confident he would have won the election if he had run.
Cr Light did not rule out a return to politics in the future, at either a local or state level, but said he had no such plans on the immediate horizon.