7 April 2024

Hospital, ag precinct still big-ticket priorities as new-look Cook Shire Council gets down to business

| Lyndon Keane
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New Cook Shire Mayor Robyn Holmes says the six incoming councillors that will join her in the chamber represent a “very broad cross section of the community” as the council prepares to get down to business this week. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

With her feet now firmly under the desk, the new Mayor of Cook Shire Council has wasted no time in looking towards the future of the region as she prepares to welcome her fellow elected members on 9 April.

Robyn Holmes was declared the winner of the race to replace long-time mayor Peter Scott with an overwhelming majority of votes, with the former deputy mayor taking her oath of office last week to finalise the transition to the council’s top job.

Mayor Holmes will be joined in the chamber by returning councillors Marilyn Morris and Ross Logan, and new faces Gavin Dear, Sarah Martin, Justin Coventry and Melinda Parker.

The councillors will be sworn in ahead of a special meeting of council on Tuesday, and Mayor Holmes said she believed the elected line-up reflected the diversity of the Cook Shire community.

“I think it’ll cover off a very broad cross section of the community,” she said.

“They all have different skills that they’ll bring to the table.”

READ ALSO Holmes claims victory in Cook Shire mayoral race

Mayor Holmes told Cape York Weekly the first gathering of the council would allow elected members to share their vision for what they hope the next four years of leadership will look like.

“The first steps for the new council will be the induction, and a bit of a learning exercise for the first week, trying to find out what their visions are for the next four years, so the CEO can build a bit of a platform around what their vision and values are,” Mayor Holmes explained.

“I’ve gone back and had a look at the elected councillors’ speeches from the meet the councillor [public forum on 2 March]; some of them were quite specific about what they wanted to do; some of them weren’t quite so specific, but I’m pretty sure that will all come out when we get a better idea of their priorities.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, councillors will also elect a deputy mayor, choose portfolios and discuss the possibility of designating “community champions” for townships within the 106,000 square kilometre local government area.

While the day-to-day operation of the new council takes shape, Mayor Holmes said she was committed to ensuring advocacy for major projects like the Cooktown hospital redevelopment and Lakeland agricultural precinct continued.

READ ALSO New Cooktown Hospital appears to be a done deal

Council chief executive officer Brian Joiner said he believed the hospital upgrade was now at the stage of waiting for a funding green light from the State Government.

“The business case is sitting with the department of treasury, I think, waiting for funding,” he said.

“It’s just whether it gets funded as part of this [state] budget coming up, or whether it becomes election commitment funding, or whether it blows out to a following year.”

When asked about the fact only two incumbent Cape York and Torres Strait mayors were returned following the 16 March elections, Mayor Holmes said it remained to be seen what the upheaval would mean for council governance in the region.

“It’s been a pretty massive change,” she reflected.

“Some of those [changes] are due to retirements; it will be really interesting to see how we go forward.

“I guess it will be a really steep learning curve for a lot of them.”

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