FRESH FACE: Southern Downs producers wait in anticipation to see how incoming mayor Vic Pennisi addresses their problems.
FRESH FACE: Southern Downs producers wait in anticipation to see how incoming mayor Vic Pennisi addresses their problems.

Disgruntled primary producers welcome incoming councillors

A GRANITE BELT grower, a Warwick cattle producer, an agronomist and a household farming name.

These are the new council representatives hoping to bring some fresh ideas to the agricultural community of the Southern Downs.

As the election race finalises, producers have gotten their first look at who could be representing them for the next four years.

Front runners include Vic Pennisi for mayor with councillor favourites who have extensive agricultural backgrounds including Ross Bartley, Cameron Gow, Cynthia McDonald and Stephen Tancred.

For Clintonvale cattle farmer Lawrence Ryan, the results were indicative of public sentiment.

“I rang both Ross and Vic after the polls closed on Saturday and told them how happy I was with the result,” Mr Ryan said.

“I’ve known Vic for the best past of 20 years, but that aside, he is a very level-headed and approachable sort of a bloke, who tries his best for the whole shire.

“I think he will listen to the community and with Ross and Cynthia right behind him, we couldn’t be in better hands.”

Mr Ryan said it was due time for a complete overhaul of the Southern Downs Regional Council and for the voices of rural towns to be heard.

“I don’t think many people were happy at all with the previous council. There was little consultation with ratepayers. They’re our elected representatives so they need to represent all of us, "he said.

“They didn’t realise there were people outside the 60k zone of Warwick.

“They left small towns very disgruntled and rural people disgruntled.”

But winemaker Sam Constanzo from Golden Grove Estate disagreed, as he looked forward to an “interesting” new term.

“There were things I was not happy with but I think Tracy (Dobie) did a pretty good job looking after Stanthorpe,” Mr Constanzo said.

“I hear people say, they didn’t do this, they didn’t do that, but look at what they did do.

“No one can really achieve every single thing they set out to do.”

Mr Constanzo praised the effort of the previous council in maintaining cleanliness in Stanthorpe but said he still looked forward to what incoming mayor Vic Pennisi would bring to the table.

“I couldn’t see any service neglected,” he said.

“They put a carpark in Rogers St, relined the Main St, and put in that beautiful walkway.

“I think anything that is homegrown is a little closer to your heart, so Vic may possibly do a better job but we’ll see.”

Both producers said drought would remain at the forefront of their concerns, even as coronavirus threatens their financial security.

“Farmers still haven’t seen any drought relief,” Mr Constanzo said.

“Town people got a tank, but we haven’t seen a single penny as far as drought relief here.”

“A lot of farming families are still struggling,” Mr Ryan said.

“Drought hasn’t broken, we’ve just been given a reprieve.

“If we don’t get rain in the next couple of weeks, it will be back and I don’t think it was handled well by the previous council.

“They seemed oblivious to the fact it was even on.”

Mr Constanzo, who had to lay off two staff members due to coronavirus, hoped the council would work tirelessly to boost tourism once the threat was gone.

“I just hope it’s not neglected,” he said. “At the moment, it will fall on deaf ears because people can’t move but when the time is right I hope they can bring people back all across the region.

“Like all mayors or councillors, or even PMs, you can promise the world but until you’re in that position you never know.”