MOVING FORWARD: State Minister for Local Government, Stirling Hinchliffe, visited the Hervey Bay Chambers of the Fraser Coast Regional Council.
MOVING FORWARD: State Minister for Local Government, Stirling Hinchliffe, visited the Hervey Bay Chambers of the Fraser Coast Regional Council. Valerie Horton

Minister fronts councillors, ratepayers in visit

LESS than a week after sacking Fraser Coast Mayor Chris Loft, Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has fronted councillors.

It's the first time Mr Hinchliffe, who never met the ousted mayor in person, has been here since taking on his new role.

Neither he or his predecessor Mark Furner visited the region in the 73 days ratepayers waited for the State Government to decide Cr Loft's fate.

Yesterday, Mr Hinchliffe told reporters he was confident meeting Mr Loft in person would not have impacted his ultimate decision to dismiss him.

Speaking outside the council's Tavistock St chambers, he said his decision was instead based soley on the material before him.

He also vowed to work with the council in "moving forward".

"The role for the minister in making decisions under the Local Government Act is making a decision on the facts and evidence before them," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"Anything else I might have done in terms of visiting and talking to people would not have added to the process I needed to take."

Mr Hinchliffe said he made a point of not discussing the dismissal with anyone, including his own staff and previous ministers.

He said the decision on Mr Loft demonstrated to officials that the Queensland Government would be holding "the Local Government Act high in requirements for the performance of councillors."

"I appreciate there has been a period for too long where the council and its administration and leadership has suffered from a limbo period," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"That's where the decision that Mr Loft be dismissed allows us to draw a line under that and move forward.

"I have confidence we can see the Fraser Coast Regional Council move forward... we want to work together in providing an opportunity for progress.

"After the decision last week, I thought it was entirely appropriate to make sure I had a chance to touch base with the councillors and acting mayor.

"My first and highest priority was when I had the first chance to be able to talk to the council (was) to reassure them of the commitment the Queensland government has to working with them."

Mr Hinchliffe said Mr Loft needed to seek his own legal advice on whether he would appeal the decision.



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