Meet your Coliban Ward election candidates

Residents have a mixed bag of candidates to choose from to be their next representative.

LICIA KOKOCINSKI

Former state MP with the Australian Labor Party, Licia Kokocinski, is a Trentham resident of 20 years.

Ms Kokocinski believes Coliban Ward needs strong representation to ensure rate equity, improved public transport links with city centres, more amenities, upgraded facilities at tourist attractions, such as Trentham Falls, and increased access to community health services.

"This ward should be able to demand and get a fair proportion of the rate revenue that it puts into the coffers of the Hepburn Shire. The other issue is good population planning because a lot of it is ad hoc. I'd like to see the planning scheme amended and more community involvement in decision making.

"Maintenance of the environment is another issue - we have to manage the population growth and protect the environment. I'd like to see people continue to come here, otherwise we will have an old community and there will be no volunteers."

She wants realistic planning decisions, sustainable development and alternative energy innovation too.

CANDIDATE: Licia Kokocinski wants to use her professional skills as local councillor. Photo: Lachlan Bence

CANDIDATE: Licia Kokocinski wants to use her professional skills as local councillor. Photo: Lachlan Bence

"This is an opportunity and I want to see the community thrive," she said. "My skills are in representation and advocacy as a past member of Parliament. It's not about me and what I want, but about knowing how to bring a whole lot of disparate groups of people together to bring a unified position to council. 

"I bring the skills of standing up to a fight, developing policy, knowledge about power and how its used and misused, strong governance skills."

She said she had withdrawn from the community as she had been the sole carer for her husband, who has since passed away, and she looked forward to actively participating in the future of the community.

BRIAN HOOD

Brian Hood has led a career in senior management, executive and Chief Financial Officer positions within the water industry, state government environmental agency and at Stonnington Council.

"I want to make a contribution to the community and this is the best way that I can do it," he said. "Things have to change around here. This ward has been somewhat neglected. I have delved into the financials and we have not had our fair share of projects. I can put up persuasive, influential business cases.

"We know for a fact that Coliban Ward's growth rate is double most of the other wards. Another is over the last five years, rate payers have paid almost $15 million in rates, but the amount of expenditure council has done on projects here is $1 million. That is a very big mismatch. In the same five years, they have spent almost $25 million in the other wards."

He spent five years with the Reserve Bank of Australia's banknote printing subsidiary, Note Printing Australia, through which he blew the whistle on Australia's most prominent foreign bribery case.

He wants the fair and timely delivery of services and infrastructure for the community.

CHANGE NEEDED: Brian Hood believes the ward needs a fresh set of eyes. Photo: Lachlan Bence

CHANGE NEEDED: Brian Hood believes the ward needs a fresh set of eyes. Photo: Lachlan Bence

"The community centre is the obvious big project - and we need state government funding to start it. But we also need smaller things like bike and walking trails, public transport and amenities. There are so many projects that need to be reenergised," he said. "There are the short term things but we also need some long term planning so projects are done consistently with the plan, and not just ad hoc.

"There are lots of young families moving into the area, so we need childcare and kindergartens."

He said he could make contributions to the people of the whole shire, but his priority would be to Coliban Ward.

"I see it very much as a representative role, so I am representing all the various groups in the community. I am not standing as though I have all the answers, but more as a matter of what the groups here tell me they need. 

"Given recent history, we need a fresh approach here. The community centre caused a lot of divisiveness in the community so I think we need somebody with a fresh set of eyes, somebody who is not aligned to any particular group, who is not too connected to the past."

JOHN MCLAREN

John McLaren's ancestors have lived in Bullarto South and Korweinguboora since they cleared a bush block in the late 1860s. 

"I feel a deep and abiding connection with the land and the people who have struggled with it, respected it and cared for it," he said.

Mr McLaren believes his ten years of servicing the communities in Coliban Ward, through the Lions Club, CFA, church groups, volunteering at SpudFest and Words in Winter, have prepared him for the responsibilities of becoming a councillor and highlight his commitment to the ward.

"I see the job of Councillor as advancing the interests of our smaller communities equally with the larger population centres across the Hepburn Shire. While I welcome the economic benefits of tourism, I think Council policy and Council decisions should be primarily in the interests of the people who live here and pay rates here, more than those who visit for a day.

COMMUNITY MINDED: John McLaren is running for the seat again. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

COMMUNITY MINDED: John McLaren is running for the seat again. Photo: Luka Kauzlaric

"I think the way ahead for us is to welcome and include anyone who finds the city’s demands stifling and wants to make their home here. I believe the diversity of population in our ward is a source of strength and resilience. Serving on Council seems to me the best way that I can protect and nurture some of the things that are so precious about this small part of the planet."

Mr McLaren ran as a candidate at the last election, coming in second to Sebastian Klein. Since then, he says he has listened to and learned from a wide range of community members in an effort to be well-informed, fair and balanced in his opinions.

He has been employed as a secondary teacher and a street level youth worker in the past, as well as a staff member for two Federal Senators and as a senior member of the South Australian Legislative Council. 

He was also president of the Australian Democrats Victorian Division for several years and then the President for two terms.

"I understand formal meeting procedures reasonably well. I understand the need to blend policy with common sense, to listen seriously to all points of view, and sometimes arrive at conclusions that will not be universally popular. I have discovered that, in controversial matters, consensus can usually be achieved if there is sufficient information available, if good will is present, and if sufficient time is allowed for the process to be worked through," he said.

A diligent attendee of the monthly Hepburn Shire Council meetings, Mr McLaren has learnt the processes of council and is informed of the shire's activities.

"I believe in genuine consultation and I believe that a diverse, inclusive community will be vigorous and resilient," he said.

DAVID REILLY

David Reilly has lived off the grid, without town water, growing organic fruit and vegetables at his home in South Bullarto for the past 21 years.

Mr Reilly is self-employed and is passionate about small towns, a sustainable lifestyle, recycling renewable energy and the changes that will occur as the community continues to grow.

"I am standing because I believe Coliban Ward has a tendency to miss out and because the town is quite divided. It is about how to bring the community together.

"Trentham has so much potential but there is no real focus on how to make it better than what it is. The hub needs to be built - every other major town in the shire has one so we need to find the money to do it."

He said he understood the ongoing challenge of balancing the needs of existing residents with those who are moving to the region and the demands for infrastructure.

FOCUS: David Reilly is running for the seat. Photo: Lachlan Bence

FOCUS: David Reilly is running for the seat. Photo: Lachlan Bence

He will advocate for fair rates, money spent within the ward and sustainable growth.

"The other challenge is that the community is changing. There are challenges around infrastructure because we have a lot of young people coming here so we need more schools and early childhood education but the other challenge is that we have an ageing population and need aged care services in the community."

"It is not too much about what I actually think but about taking the ideas of the community at a council level."