Garry Stephens elected mayor

David Braithwaite

GARRY Stephens has begun his second term as a Wellington Shire councillor by being elected mayor for the next 12 months.

The Coastal Ward councillor from Yarram was elected to the top job unopposed during a special meeting of council on Thursday night.

Cr Stephens thanked his fellow councillors for their support, and looked forward to them working well with each other, and council management and staff.

“I’m humbled and honoured to be elected by my peers as the mayor of the Wellington Shire,” he said.

“I look forward to an opportunity to come to serve with all the returning councillors and all the new councillors.”

Cr Scott Rossetti is the new deputy mayor after winning a vote for the position against new councillor Jill Wood, six to three.

Cr Rossetti, who represents the Central Ward, brings 12 years’ experience to the role of deputy mayor, having also served as mayor twice.

The election of leadership positions followed the swearing in of the nine members of the new council.

Because of COVID-19 regulations, the meeting was held via Skype instead of in the council chamber.

Mayor Stephens thanked former councillors Alan Hall, Darren McCubbin and Carmel Ripper for their service during the previous term.

“I hope that we can continue to work in a collegiate way for the betterment of the people of the Wellington Shire,” he said.

Cr Stephens outlined some of the issues he will be focussing on during his year as mayor, including climate change and the opportunities for renewable energy projects.

“Climate change is going to be a big issue for our community in the future, and certainly in the nextfour years,” he said.

“I think the introduction of renewable energy, [provides] an exciting opportunity for us.

“There’s the Star of the South offshore windfarm, and also a number of solar farms that we hope will come on stream.

“Renewable energy is going to be a big issue in the next term.”

Cr Stephens would like council to continue advocating for the local native timber industry, as well as working to help the shire recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The recovery from COVID-19 is going to be a huge issue for our community, not only the issue of physical and mental health, but how we’re going to have industry, particularly retail and tourism industries, and the general economy recover from the pandemic,” he said.

The provision of council services to the community was critical, Cr Stephens said.

“With the COVID-19 lockdown, the ratepayers appreciate that they haven’t been able to go to parks, haven’t been able to go to the library or swimming pools, gyms and other places,” he said.

“All these things are important, but people haven’t been able to use those services, and I think they probably have a better appreciation for the range of services that the council provides that make life better in our community.”

Cr Stephens said council would work to finalise major recycling and waste contracts to fall in line with new state government legislation, and continue to advocate to receive state and federal grants for infrastructure.

He was also looking forward to receiving the overdue state government review into council rates.

Meanwhile, council also approved annual allowances of $81,204 for the mayor and $26,245 for councillors. Both figures are within the ranges set by the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal for ‘category two’ councils such as Wellington.

The first ordinary council meeting of this term will be held on Tuesday night.