Les Larke

My family has lived permanently in Bass Coast since mid-1970s, firstly Cape Paterson, then Wonthaggi and Inverloch. I have three children and four young grandchildren, and have resided in Wonthaggi for the past 9 years.

I am a volunteer and lead person campaigning since 2013 to Save and Preserve Wonthaggi Cemetery, and am involved in Rose Lodge (Wonthaggi Aged Care Facility) activities for the benefit of residents. I have also worked closely with primary, secondary and tertiary student mentoring programs including Young Achievement Australia to develop skills, capacities and understanding in all young Australians through partnership with business, government, education and the community.

I am not connected to or associated with any political party, ideology or voting block. I am running for office independently, and will deal with candidate ranking and council issues on their merits.

Three issues considered important:
1.       WISE financial planning
2.       TRANSPARENT decision making
3.       GENUINE understanding of community needs and aspirations

How has Bass Coast been able to attract investment in excess of $200 million and develop a new secondary college and university centre, upgrade a hospital, refurbish the arts centre, establish a youth hub, and build modern recreational facilities including a surf lifesaving club? It has been through strong financial leadership and advocacy for our community.

Over the past 4 years as a councillor, my extensive experience as a Certified Practicing Accountant and former General Manager State Trustees, has enabled me to support a team of dedicated councillors and staff to transform long term strategic plans and budgets to ensure the financial sustainability of council well into the future. This has allowed council, for the first time in many years, to secure state and federal government grants to build and upgrade key facilities, however there is more work to be done.

The financial position of council needs ongoing expert oversight to deliver funding for projects such as a new aquatic centre, local road and drainage schemes, footpaths and leisure trails, and effective management of coastal erosion. Furthermore, significant funding is needed for a range of vital programs to help address domestic and family violence (including emergency housing), and mental health issues that are impacting our community, from young people to the elderly.

It would be a privilege to continue in the role as an elected councillor to support individuals, families and businesses, through my unwavering commitment to wise financial planning, transparent decision-making, and genuine understanding of community needs and aspirations. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Questions 1 thru 15 are from BCRRA and 16 thru 34 are collated from the community questions received. Candidates were asked to respond to all 34

  1. Why do you believe the community should vote for you?
    Refer to my Candidate Statement
  2. What are your strengths in working with people?
    Refer to my Candidate Statement, particularly achievements in relation to financial reform and advocacy.
    Les Larke provided one combined answer to questions 3 thru 7
  3. If elected, how will you demonstrate that you stand at the front of the community rather than standing beside the bureaucracy?
  4. What considerations, inclusions or deletions will you take when forming your new Council Plan?
  5. How will you demonstrate that you remain focused on financial discipline at Council
  6. Is Council’s 4 year Strategic Resource Plan together with the 10 year financial plan appropriate to meet the future needs of The Bass Coast Shire Council and its Ratepayers?
  7. Will you be prepared to challenge the system (council officers and fellow councillors) to keep your constituents well informed
    A key issue will be the GENUINE understanding of community needs and aspirations, through a draft vision developed by a representative Community Panel of local residents following extensive consultation with the broader community. TRANSPARENT decision making and WISE financial planning to deliver this vision and financial sustainability over the projected 4 and 10 year timeframes will be essential, and I have the experience and expertise to play a significant role in delivering those outcomes.
  8. Will you take action to investigate the 10 year Waste Contract details in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor? Will you review the contract model settings and make findings publicly available?
    My concerns are on record, and I would be supportive of a review as early as possible, however Council is locked into a 10 year contract approved by the previous Council. Insofar as making the findings publicly available, I would be supportive of that stance, subject to Local Government Act limitations.
  9. Will you support continued live streaming of open Council Meetings and availability of a publicly available video archive?
    I am one of only 2 councillors that have consistently supported livestreaming before and after COVID, and will continue to do so.
  10. Will you take action to review the Governance Rules Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
    My concerns are on record in relation to Governance Rules and Media/Social Media Policies, and I would be supportive of a review as early as possible.
  11. Will you take action to Review the Media Engagement Policy in the first 12 months of your term as a councillor including community consultation?
    See question 10 above
  12. If elected, what commitment will you make to improve Council engagement with the wider community and build community engagement with your local ward?
    See questions 3-7 above
  13. How will you ensure that the CEO and officers genuinely and respectfully answer all public questions with a sincere response that address the core of each question?
    My concerns are on record in relation to Public Questions, and I would be supportive of a review as early as possible.
  14. Do you believe that keeping any increases to rates, fees and charges within the State Government Rate Cap or below the CPI increase is paramount for Council?
    My view is that any rate increase should be Rate Cap or CPI, whichever is the less. Insofar as fees and charges (excepting waste) CPI. For waste, I am on record for voting against increased charges due to recent gate recycling costs, however broadly in agreement with the waste cost recovery model with no mark up (profit element) borne by ratepayers. However all of these aspects should be considered in the light of potential reform of operating expenditure to mitigate to the extent possible, any increase whatsoever in rates, fees and charges.
  15. Would you be in favour of regular virtual community connection sessions in lieu of the previous model used by Council?
    Open to supporting that suggestion.
  16. Why are you standing as a Councillor?
    Refer to my candidate Statement
  17. Do you live in the ward you seek to represent, and why should we vote for you?
    Live in the Bunurong Ward and also refer to my Candidate Statement
  18. Council recently commenced Live Streaming meetings (for a trial period). They also recently adopted policies defining Council engagement with social and other media. How do you feel about these?
    See question 9 above.
  19. How would you improve Council engagement with the wider community and build community engagement with your local ward?
    See questions 3-7 above
  20. Public Transparency and good Governance are at the core of BCRRA’s purpose. Council has recently adopted new policies covering Governance Rules and Public Transparency.
    My concerns are on record in relation to the Public Transparency Policy, and I would be supportive of a review as early as possible in accordance with my Notice of Motion at the September 2020 Council meeting. Insofar as measures to demonstrate honesty and transparency, I would consult broadly with the community with a view to implementing monthly and year to date financial reports, and key financial and non financial performance measures, and replace outmoded financial and accounting practices. This has been on my agenda for some time, however it needs community buy-in to make this happen.
  21. Do you feel there is a need to review these policies, and if so when should this be done?
    See question 20 above
  22. What role do you feel community consultation has in reviewing these policies?
    See question 20 above
  23. What measures would you put in place to demonstrate honesty and transparency in your decisions and spending of ratepayers’ money?
    See question 20 above
  24. Do you think ‘The Fair Go’ rate cap is better or worse than limiting rate rises to CPI?
    See question 14 above
  25. Bass Coast Shire has budgeted for a significant amount of Capital Works in the coming years. How do you feel about the level of borrowing necessary to deliver these?
    My concerns are on record, in that borrowings are projected to be approaching VAGO high risk ratios. That said, I am also on record of stating that the legacy of underlying operating losses over many years has contributed to this position.
  26. What is your opinion of Council’s current financial position? And of the outlook projected in the Long Term Financial Plan?
    My concerns are on record, in relation to borrowings, unfunded reserves, a less than optimal capital expenditure model, and lack of operating expenditure budget reform to free up funds for capital projects without unnecessary borrowings.
  27. What is your opinion of the 10-year waste contract agreed by the last Council late in 2016?
    See question 8 above
  28. And what do you think of the (uncapped) charge for waste services being separate to the general rate charge?
    See question 8 above
  29. What is important for you about township boundaries and character within the shire?
    Managing tensions around development and impact on housing, local neighborhood character and heritage is a key challenge for Council. I am generally in favour of protecting town boundaries, and a satisfactory solution should emerge as part of the Distinctive Areas and Landscapes program.
  30. What is your feeling about the condition of council owned roads and footpaths and bike paths?
    My concerns are on record, and consider insufficient funds are allocated to these core projects and services.
  31. What are your views on the level of importance of art, culture, and indigenous recognition in the Council framework?
    Important, and currently demonstrate my interest through being a member of Council’s Art & Culture Committee.
  32. Statistically, one in four Bass Coast Residences has a dog. How do you feel about existing restrictions in place? What, if anything would you change?
    Outcomes should always be driven by genuine community engagement and consultation. I have not been happy with some outcomes, where the community has indicated an outcome and the solution implemented has been diametrically opposite to community stated position.
  33. What would you like to see BCSC do to address Climate Change?
    I voted for and am supportive of Council’s Climate Action Plan, with two provisos: (1) more effective community consultation is required with industry, business and agricultural sectors, and householders; and (2) we need to capture data not covered in the plan, particularly transport emissions generated by vehicles registered outside of Bass Coast e.g. visiting buses, cars and heavy/trade vehicles etc.
  34. How do you rank the importance of tourism against local amenity?
    See question 29 above, whilst recognising the importance of tourism, the local economy and local jobs. It’s a challenge to balance the various considerations during and post Covid.

Questions 35 thru 88 are ALL community questions exactly as we received them.
Candidates were given the option to reply to as many or as few as they wished.
(Questions 16 – 34 above were collated from these)

No responses to these questions have been supplied at this time.
12 May 2021

Phone ContactEmail Address
0450 475 134leslarke@bigpond.com

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