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  • Alina Polishuk


    Email Alina Polishuk

    Unity team banks on its record for success at March elections

    Mayor Bob Manning is asking voters to look to the past to see what the future holds for Cairns. 

    Despite adding three fresh faces to his Unity team, the two-term incumbent Mayor is confident his steady hand at the helm of council over the past two terms will be enough to win re-election on March 28.

    Mayor Manning said Unity's campaign will be entirely self-funded, with the team refusing to accept donations to avoid concerns over state legislation and conflicts of interest.

    "I can say to people today that what you’ve seen of us over the last eight years will be the best predictor of what you will see from us over the next four years," Mayor Manning said at a press conference today.

    "The council will stick to the same things that we’ve stuck to all along. We’ve had 7 years of CPI increases to rates. We bring down balanced budgets, we've brought in operating surpluses every year. We are in the lowest levels of debt per capita for Queensland local authorities. All councils in Queensland would be envious of our performance."

    Amy Eden, Kristy Vallely and Rhonda Coghlan will join the Unity ticket in their debut bids for councillor positions.

    According to Mayor Manning, his immediate focus if re-elected will be advocating for a Cairns tourism levy, which would increase funding for Tropical Tourism North Queensland's marketing efforts.

    "Over the past three or four years Cairns has lost 3 to 4% of its market share but in metro areas the market is growing," he said. "Cairns has never experienced that before. We simply aren't spending enough and are not active or focused enough in the marketplace."

    Division 8 candidate Rhonda Coghlan, a finance manager and Smithfield resident, said the decision to join Mayor Manning's Unity team was a simple one.

    "The town has never looked better," Ms Coghlan said. "The northern beaches, the foreshores all look amazing. Unity has managed to keep us going forward with a strong fiscal policy still in place to keep the rates low. You can’t argue with that. It’s a good system, it’s worked and we can see that it works."

    Division 6 candidate Kristy Vallely, known for her online community forum The Imperfect Mum, echoed Ms. Coghlan's sentiments.

    "I look at what Bob has achieved here in Cairns and it’s pretty impressive, so for me aligning with Unity was easy," Ms Vallely said. 

    Amy Eden, who will run against incumbent councillor Richie Bates for the CBD-focused Division 5 seat, is a community advocate who believes in the strength of a team. 

    "I go by the motto 'team work makes the dream work'," said Ms. Eden.

    As individual councillors, the three new Unity candidates have specific goals for their respective divisions.

    Ms Eden, who helped establish the Manoora Community Garden and 3MPride, would like to see a sense of community presence throughout the city. Ms Eden, who is a regular columnist for Tropic Magazine, has won numerous awards for her community work, including Australian Institute of Management Cairns Community Leader (2017) award and the Cairns Business Women’s Club Volunteer of the Year (2017).

    She was also a finalist in Cairns Regional Council’s 2019 Citizen of the Year awards.

    "I'd like to see more culture, she said. "A collective effervescence, as such. So people have that feeling of 'this is Cairns and this is a great place to be.

    "It's about creating opportunities for people to come together and share positive experiences."

    Ms Vallely will advocate for an increase in shared community spaces in her division, which centres on Redlynch.

    Her success in the online blogging world garnered national recognition.

    She is a previous winner of an Australian Entrepreneur award at Ausmumpreneur for “Making a Difference”, winner of Cairns Regional Council Woman of the Year Award and was named one of the most clickable woman in Australia by News Website Mamamia.

    "We would love to see a pool, and we would also like to work on the bike path that runs from Freshwater through to Freshwater College," she said.

    "I’m a people person so I love to connect with different types of people in the community. For me, being a voice for people is a huge part of my decision to run for council."

    Ms Coghlan, who replaces retiring councillor Jessie Richardson in Division 8 on the Unity ticket, wanted to continue the team's proven track record on the Northern Beaches. 

    "I am all for sustainable growth," she said. "We’ve got to look after this beautiful tropical environment that we live in and we can’t put that at risk in any way, shape or form. However we can’t go backwards, and standing still is going backwards.

    "I think we do need to maintain the natural environment, but I am a cyclist and I love riding the bike path along the Northern Beaches. That trail from the city to Palm Cove is the best thing in the world."