Push for unified council

ONE Latrobe City Council candidate has called for an end to the deep-rooted parochial division which he believes currently plagues council.

South Ward candidate Gilio Barbara said the competition between Moe, Morwell and Traralgon was “not competitive, but combative”, however he hoped a newly-elected council would have “a unified vision for Latrobe City”.

“We have spent so much time arguing that it has definitely hindered our progress both in local government as well as in the State Government,” Mr Barbara said.

“The competition between the main three towns is not healthy and very one-sided.”

Despite their election statements vowing for a better deal for their wards, Central Ward candidates Peter Ryan and Graeme Middlemiss, together with West Ward candidates Jenny Webb and Ed Vermeulen, agreed council needed to achieve this together.

East Ward candidate Dan Jordan and Mr Barbara campaigned for Latrobe City in their statements, while East Ward candidates Paul Howden and Anne Murphy promised to work in unity without bias.

Mr Barbara said some elements of the election had showcased a “vitriolic and hateful” campaign towards Moe, Morwell and the improvement of Latrobe City.

Despite the cities of Moe, Morwell, and Traralgon, and areas of the Rosedale and Narracan, amalgamating under one council banner in 1994, Mr Barbara said councillor-divided representation was aiding to Latrobe City’s loss of “identity”.

Despite declaring a “Morwell first” campaign, Central Ward candidate Peter Ryan said councillors needed to unite now.

“You do represent a ward even though you have a Latrobe Valley view; you need to attract votes so I am from Morwell and need to show my support for Morwell,” Mr Ryan said. His views were supported by fellow Central Ward candidate Cr Middlemiss, who said there was no issue representing Latrobe City as well as your elected ward.

“Councillors, no matter how local their focus is, believe in key issues with economic development and job creation, but councillors can’t step back from looking after their ward,” Cr Middlemiss said.

He denied division existed within current council.

Latrobe City mayor Cr Vermeulen said a “healthy sense” of competition existed due to the unique layout of the region which included three major towns.

“Private industry and governments want to see a united region that speaks with one voice or they don’t feel comfortable investing in the area,” Cr Vermeulen said.

“What we can achieve together, as a sum of individuals, will always outweigh what we can do separately.”

However, East Ward candidates Dale Harriman and Axella Johannesson were committed to Traralgon and believed five councillors had voted against Traralgon’s progression.

“Traralgon hasn’t had a fair deal,” Cr Harriman said.

“We need to look at Traralgon being pushed compared to the others towns, over the last 10 years there has been unfair representation.”