Mayoral candidates say rates, amenities and economic opportunity are high priorities for the City of Greater Geraldton.
The Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry invited candidates for council positions to speak at the Geraldton Club on Wednesday.
CPA accountant, business owner and Mayor Shane Van Styn said he first stood for council eight years ago when the City was “technically insolvent” with no cash reserves and little cash in hand.
He said he then campaigned for Mayor to stop “spiralling rates”. “We delivered rates growth of no more than 2.2 per cent on average over four years,” he said.
Mr Van Styn said the council had reduced operating expenditure by 20 per cent in one year.
He said it had also increased asset maintenance spending from between $4 million and $5 million to $21 million a year, with 99 per cent going to local contractors.
Mr Van Styn said this had allowed the City to develop Beresford foreshore, Olive Street reserve and the animal management facility, and to renew footpaths, rural roads and other works.
He said the City had worked to open the Abrolhos Islands to tourism and attract Chinese visitors.
Steve Mason read a written speech for mayoral candidate and Geraldton businessman Nigel Broadhead, who was overseas.
Mr Broadhead said he had done his apprenticeship in his father’s service station before starting his own business and had learnt what made a business or other venture successful.
“The running of commercial businesses is not that far from the workings of a local government authority,” he said.
“I have seen this area develop from a fairly quiet seaside town to a city where we can be proud of its development.”
Mr Broadhead said he would like to continue this trend while balancing the need to attract tourists with the needs of Geraldton people. “I’m also acutely aware that we need to do this without any unnecessary burden on ratepayers, who largely provide funds for development,” he said.
Former mayor Vickie Hablitz is standing once again.
She said she would like to offer change. “The Geralton rates in the dollar are 14.8529 per cent compared to Bunbury at 9.631 and Albany at 10.3512,” she said.
“I want the rates to be affordable for everybody.”
Ms Hablitz said the council had to live within community means.
“I want to work with the State and Federal Governments to boost tourism numbers so as to promote business opportunities, creating jobs for young people and older people,” she said.
“I want everyone including our seniors to feel safer in their own homes and to be able to go out and enjoy their community.
“Let’s put some energy into our suburbs and stop the plunging property prices.
“I’ll listen to your issues when you bring them to me in a respectful manner, no matter how big or small.”
Nine of the 14 candidates for vacant councillor positions also spoke.