Discover more from Murray Bridge News
Passion or pragmatism: Murray Bridge voters face a striking mayoral choice
Dawn Matthews and Wayne Thorley are two very different candidates, the audience at a Murray Bridge News mayoral forum has heard.
This post about the current local government election is free to read. Your support can help Murray Bridge News tell more important local stories – subscribe today.
Murray Bridge residents face a choice between two very different mayoral candidates at this year’s election.
That much became clear on Friday night, at an election forum hosted by Murray Bridge News at the town hall.
Wayne Thorley showcased his practical thinking and his understanding of local government.
Dawn Matthews spoke about her passion for helping people and advocating for them.
Below are a selection of the questions the candidates were asked on the night.
Housing crisis dominates discussion
The ongoing shortage of rental and affordable housing in Murray Bridge was the issue brought up most frequently by audience members.
How would each candidate deal with it?
Cr Thorley had confidence that the housing industry would be able to cope with demand.
The council’s role, he said, would be to keep lobbying for particular outcomes where they were needed – including for better mental health services, since that issue was a contributing factor. The council could also help by opening up more residential land.
But it was not the council’s job to provide homelessness services, he said – “if you want to go down that track, your rates would have to go through the roof”.
Ms Matthews said she would not tolerate people being forced to sleep rough or in their cars – “you can’t do nothing”.
But solving the crisis would be as much about community action as government funding, she said.
“We don’t have to wait for the state government, the federal government or the council,” she said.
“We, the people, can do something about it.
“You might have a granny flat out the back, you could rent that out; you might have a piece of land sitting idle.
“If we work as a community, together, it’s quite interesting what we can achieve.”
There was a Maori saying about that, she said: what was the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata – “the people, the people, the people”.
How have you served the community in previous roles?
Cr Thorley reflected on his Country Fire Service involvement – as a high-ranking volunteer, he had managed hundreds of people on fire grounds, and developed skills which would be useful to a community leader.
Ms Matthews said she had spent the past four years building connections between community members who needed that: establishing an op shop and drop-in centre, the Shared Table; and running and catering for the Black Swans rugby league club.
How would you handle conflict?
Cr Thorley would ask the parties involved to sit down and talk calmly.
Ms Matthews said that, in the Maori community, everyone said their bit. “It’s about respecting people for what they want to say and how they want to say it.”
Is there one issue you look forward to championing?
Cr Thorley nominated heavy transport: getting the biggest trucks out of Murray Bridge’s residential areas and off council-owned roads.
“I don’t think it’s fair that we’re paying for damage to our infrastructure so someone else can make a dollar,” he said.
Ms Matthews picked getting lights installed around the oval at Murray Bridge Showground – the one where her rugby club trained – and developing the sporting precinct there.
What will you do for rural communities?
In rural areas, the council needed to focus on the four Rs, Cr Thorley said: roads, rates, rubbish and recreation facilities.
It would be up to the next council to keep developing relationships with local progress associations and other groups, and to fund projects communities wanted.
What’s your vision for Murray Bridge?
Ms Matthews said she would be about investing in people.
“If we work together, we can achieve,” she said.
Cr Thorley said he looked forward to finding out what community members’ vision for the future looked like through consultations about the council’s next strategic plan, which was due to be completed during the next council term.
“Tell us your vision,” he said.
Watch a replay of the mayoral forum: www.youtube.com.
You can help keep local stories like this one free for everyone to read. Subscribe to Murray Bridge News today and support your independent, locally owned news service, plus get access to exclusive stories you won’t find anywhere else, from just $5 a month.