1. What policies would you support to help protect the exceptional biodiversity within Mareeba Shire – and in particular protection of biodiversity in the Kuranda Region (Kuranda - Speewah – Koah)?
I support policies that will help us retain and rebuild the natural capital of our region, and especially the World Heritage Area.
We need dedicated planning instruments to unambiguously protect this area from inappropriate development.
This is both a technical and a political challenge. I can speak most clearly on the political aspect.
In my mind, the best thing Councillors can do is stand *with* these communities and help them work through the often contradictory land use goals that people feel rightfully entitled to.
In the first instance political leadership and a craftsmanlike approach to dialogue is called for, more than formalised policies. People in those communities must have a guiding role in the decisions about their region, and a successful dialogue requires determined effort on the part of many people, starting with elected Councillors.
Once a proper sense of consensus begins to be confirmed throughout the community, appropriate policies can be established to reflect the community's voice. This is more of a technical effort that will be led by qualified staff and others. The process should go more smoothly because (unlike at the current moment) the community will have been properly facilitated to reach their own agreed positions, assisted by their elected Councillors.
2. Do you believe that protecting and enhancing the remaining natural environment is important for tourism, clean water for domestic and agricultural use and for future-proofing our shire?
Yes. I feel very strongly that our Shire's "competitive advantage" is entirely dependent on our relationship with natural resources. And I think we have barely started to realise that advantage.
We have a unique opportunity to position ourselves as innovators and leaders for the restoration of habitat, the conversion to regenerative farming, rebuilding communities starting from the bedrock of regional self-sufficiency, and to figure out how to tell our story of growth and well-being to a world that is desperately looking for answers.
I believe that we begin that journey very simply, right here at home. How do we (collectively) care for the soils and water that we are stewards of? How do we measure our progress, year on year, toward cleaner water, abundant soils, and community well-being?
Council has a leadership role to play here by setting the tone, highlighting symbols of inclusivity, and helping people find the best in themselves and one another.
3. How do you think the shire could address extreme weather events that are linked to climate change such as droughts, cyclones, fires, etc.?
I believe our first responsibility is to help people stay safe and become more resilient because just about every indicator suggests there are difficult times ahead.
Our Shire hosts a Local Disaster Management Group that helps coordinate preparedness among the agencies. It also has a community subgroup that diligently works to engage with people right across the Shire. I believe that program could be significantly boosted.
At a more structural level, Council could take a more proactive approach in planning and infrastructure to identify known risks and potential mitigations. A periodic Risk Report could be published and made available to the community, highlighting areas where Council (and other agencies) are advising people to concentrate their attention.
4. Do you think it's important to reduce carbon emissions in the shire, as a way of contributing to global reductions -and how could this be done? (e.g. building regulations for eco-friendly, tropical architecture that reduces/ avoids the use of air conditioning)
I think we have everything to gain by embarking on a carbon reduction path. Council cannot change overnight, but we definitely need to be walking down this road.
(more) I think Council could do a lot by providing various ways for people to see how their cumulative impacts are trending. Right now, how would we even know what percentage of people are *already* making conscious decisions to invest in eco-friendly architecture? Is it more than last year? Are we tracking above median for the State? Is this part of the "cultural story" we want to tell about Mareeba Shire and its 300 Sunny Days a Year?
We need to bring a data-driven narrative into the broader public's view. This has two immediate benefits: 1: We can have much more informed conversations about how to reduce energy loss 2: We can make much better decisions individually and enjoy higher quality of living for less cost.
Water & Health & Safety
5. a) Do you think council should act to reduce soil and chemical run-off into the Shire’s waterways from both council-controlled land as well as private property and agricultural areas?
Yes. I think Council can take a leadership role in significantly improving our relationship with water. Keep in mind that the "actions" Council can legally and economically take can seem a bit insignificant. But, within those limits, I am a fierce advocate for cleaner water.
How to do it? I am not a great believer in rules and regulations. I am much more enthusiastic about the power of social norm and cultural convention (while still reserving the right to inflict serious penalty on people who violate those norms).
5. b) If so, what measures would you support? e.g. creating a Barron River Catchment Improvement trust to facilitate re-vegetation; local planning laws requiring adequate protected riparian zones; stopping aerial spraying?
Yes, as above...I'm in support of all practical activities. The key issue, however, is that Council cannot jump in and impose controls without being very careful with the legals.
And, far more important, the community needs to provide a mandate. If I am elected, I will have a mandate from some portion of the community. The changes contemplated in this question will need broad community support, and that means Councillors will need to agree and get to work to help facilitate the community through whatever changes are practical to undertake.
6. What would you do as a councillor to support water security across the Shire e.g. council measures to increase uptake of rain water tanks in both town and rural areas; drought proofed public and private gardens (fewer lawns and more native trees)?
I would love to see Council do an annual water efficiency stock take and showcase one impressive innovation each year.
Our region is full of thinkers and tinkers. There are whole catalogs of pattern design solutions for these sorts of things. What if Council hosted a brainstorming process each year, inviting the community to come around and look at facilities, together with Council engineers and facilities managers...putting their heads together to see just how much benefit we can squeeze out of every drop? That would be a terrific initiative!
7. Neither Mareeba nor Kuranda’s water supply are filtered to remove pesticides and Giardia and Cryptosporidia. Do you think council should inform ratepayers of this risk so each household to decide what level of remediation they can arrange and afford?
I believe Council should be informing people of their water quality on a regular basis. I think access to clean water is a public right and should not be dependent on a person's capacity to pay.
In my Mareeba Shire, Councillors will work toward providing clean, healthy water to all ratepayers as a basic public service.
8. a) In light of the linking of glyphosate (Round-up) with cancers such as lymphoma, do you support chemical free methods of removing weeds from children's playgrounds and surrounding parklands?
The key reason herbicides are used is economic. When we take these "cost saving" (?) practices off the table, we (the ratepayers) have to accept that increased costs will be incurred. How can we cover the cost increase while holding rates to a minimum? That is the question that needs to be worked through by community, Council staff, and experts in the area. I am keen to help facilitate the transition away from herbicides wherever possible.
8. b) Until this occurs, would you support the labelling and dating of any use of herbicides or other chemical in playgrounds so these areas can be avoided- and ensuring that council workers applying the herbicides are taking all precautions to protect themselves- and the public- from unnecessary exposure?
I think Council should be very conscious of people's increasing preference to avoid contact with hazardous substances. There are likely to be a range of ways to communicate risk of exposure. I support measures to help people increase their sense of well-being in our Shire.
Development, Industry & Jobs
9. a) How would you help the Shire’s agricultural sector transition toward a more sustainable, water-efficient, and resilient production standard?
Firstly, I would spend a fair bit of time listening to leading voices in our region to better understand their views. Nothing will happen unless farmers themselves have ownership of the process.
I would assist the conversation by facilitating some shared metrics that help everyone in the sector get a better idea of our cumulative impacts, trends, and opportunities. The idea is to be able to get a trusted snapshot that shows things like: percent soil carbon; water utilisation efficiencies; percentage of time in bare fields; intercropping and rotational cropping; syntropic practices in orchards; and most importantly...nett productivity (ratio of work applied to yield produced)
Once we can better understand how our land and farmers are going, there will be specific actions we can take to accelerate movement toward better practices. Much of this requires a return to the cooperatives that used to be commonplace amongst our region's farmers.
The end result of this effort should vastly improved productivity across the landscape (benefiting all farmers and our Shire's economy); increased resilience to pests, disease and severe weather; lowered agricultural inputs and improved self-sufficiency; and a stronger agricultural community with better opportunities for the next generation of young farmers.
9. b) Do you think that Council has a role in encouraging the sharing of expertise about regenerative agriculture in the Shire e.g. via workshops?
Yes, I think Council needs to develop a policy that encourages "smart farming".
This can only be done in partnership with the farming community. Since the Shire is comprised of and dependent on farmers, we have a terrific opportunity to bring the process of local government much closer to the needs and aspirations of the farming community.
(more) The debate we need to be having, openly and constructively, is about how we can transform Mareeba Shire into a powerhouse leader. As a Council, what can we do to help cultivate the very best, most sustainable, ethical and profitable farming practices in the country.
10. What are your thoughts on prioritising new economic opportunities (like Nature Tourism) that depend on healthy, intact and extensive areas of environmental value?
I fully support priorities that grow our Shire with healthy country in its heart.
I think there are terrific opportunities for businesses built around regenerative ag, ecological stewardship, and experience tourism. These ideas fully support the further growth of our horticultural sector as they too look for new ways to incorporate natural capital into their balance sheets. Opportunities will emerge and grow stronger as our community begins to support this vision for Mareeba Shire's future.
11. Are you interested in learning more about new, innovative industries such as the emerging Industrial Hemp industry in FNQ? Do you support developing local processing and ‘value-add’ industries creating local jobs?
Mareeba needs to continue transitioning from a producer-exporter mind set to include the full value chain. We should be world-leading ethical and sustainable producers and processors. The more we can keep circulating within our region, the more options we will have for dealing with a highly uncertain future.
12. a) What policies would you support to reduce and /or recycle waste?
Council can actively facilitate a relationship between the community and industry with the specific aim of making Mareeba Shire a showcase of innovative solutions. I think if Council put this general goal forward, we would spark off a whole set of possibilities that have not even been considered yet.
Development, Industry & Jobs
12. b) Do you think that the circular economy concept should guide council policy? (This might function on a local level by, for example, local recycling of e.g. plastics, glass & building materials as job-producing industries)
Yes. I think Council could play an active role in helping keep money circulating within the Shire and the local region, beginning with their own procurement and facilities management policies.
I think there's a fair bit of public education that could be initiated through Council to help people understand the significant impacts their individual decisions have. And I think Council and the Chamber could be much more active in supporting the concept. For example , where is the annual Chamber Award for Most Locally Integrated Business? At the moment, we would not even know how to measure this. It's ideas like this that show how Council can take a leadership role.
13. Would you undertake to undo the Chief Executive Officer's delegated authority power in regards to code-assessable development applications, and insist that all the elected Councillors should be responsible for these decisions?
Under consideration. There is a fair bit of Local Govt machinery that I am unfamiliar with, so I need to avoid commitments that do not fall within the power of Councillors. The key principle for me is this: Councillors are elected by the community to make *value judgements*.
The CEO should have delegated authority only in matters that are decided on the basis of law or code (ie, where there is no discretion or room for interpretation). When a matter could be nudged one direction or the other it is essential that Councillors exercise the responsibilities that have been given to them by the community.
14. If elected would you support restoring the two week period of consultation between release of Council Agenda and Council Meeting for both councillors and public?
This seems like a very sensible recommendation. I'm not aware of how the process flows at the moment, but I am fully committed to helping the community engage with matters openly and productively.
15. What are the three most important things you hope to achieve if elected?
1. Resolve ourselves toward a better vision of the future. I want to facilitate the "Kuranda Question" toward a fully-supported community vision that embraces aspirations across the Shire so that, at the end of my 4-year term, we have moved past the current loggerheads and are embarked on an inclusive process of cultivating an abundant Mareeba Shire centred on our intelligent and wise stewardship of country.
2. Locate and celebrate a big heart for Mareeba Shire. I intend to use that vision, that emerging narrative, to attract support, investment, and collaboration so that we get through the turbulent transitional phases and accelerate on an upward trend as efficiently as possible. At the end of 4 years we will have a "Mareeba Brand" that unites us from one end of the Shire to the other.
3. Keep it real, grow from the ground up. In the process of these bigger agendas, I will insist on attention to the everyday details that make our lives more buoyant, connected, and filled with meaning. I want to see better Council services at the kerbside and out on the gravel tracks...sensible policies that keep our budget manageable...and a culture of discipline and respect in our civil affairs.
16. Are you a member or supporter of any political party- and have you ever been?
No and no.
17. a) Do you intend to reply in a timely manner to emails and communications that are sent to you by concerned residents?
Yes indeed. I look forward to it.
17. b) Do you have any commitments that might limit your capacity to do so?
My family comes first, always. I am privileged to have very self-sufficient kids who are well on their way to independence and I don't think they're going to limit my ability to function well as a Councillor. My partner has her own ambitions and supports my work, so I am fortunate to have a very functional domestic base. I also have a number of community groups that I work with. I feel this is already part of my role as Councillor and adds to my effectiveness.
17. c) How would you make yourself accessible to residents wanting to meet you and discuss issues after being elected?
I intend to set up a part-time office in Molloy, and am looking for similar arrangements in Kuranda, Dimbulah, and Mareeba so that people can be assured I will be available to them at a given time. Outside of those times, I am available on mobile and email just about continually.
18. a) How would you balance your obligation to represent the large voting bloc in Mareeba with giving proper regard to the views of small outlying communities?
As an individual Councillor, the best I can do is commit to meeting with everyone, convening roundtable discussions where appropriate, and navigating through situations with integrity. We are all part of some majority and minority at the same time. There's no magic formula for resolving the tension between majority and minority interests...solutions have to be constructed out of commitment to fairness and mutually beneficial relationships.
18. b) Do you think that divisions would be a good way to ensure such representation in the future?
No. There is no way to force or legislate Councillors into fair representation. The best way forward is through cultivating genuine relationships and a real concern for the well-being of all communities across the Shire.
(more) I think the massive difference in scale between the town and all the other communities is so big that any "rule" could be bent around Mareeba's narrow self-interest if that's what they wanted to do. So I think we can't rely on rules...we need something more meaningful.
A starting point is to consciously choose to appreciate one another. We're very lucky that Mareeba is actually big enough to create a platform for services and opportunities that benefit us little folk in the outlying communities. Likewise, the little villages are located in the heart of conservation country, tourism country and agricultural country. Without us, Mareeba becomes a ghost town. So we're actually all in this together.
Instead of relying on "Divisions" to get fair representation, I would rather cultivate a real respect and mutual support network so that Council's decisions are inclusive and wellconsidered for the benefit of the whole Shire.
One way to kick this process off would be to set up three informal districts across the Shire (eg, the Eastern, Central, and Western districts). The 6 elected Councillors would then be paired up and assigned to intensively service one district at a time on a 16 month rotation. So over the course of a 4-year term, all 6 Councillors will have had the experience of being one of the "divisional reps" for all three of the informal districts. This is a start toward giving communities a form of dedicated representation as well as a way of building relationships across the Shire.
For more details about John Brisbin, click here