Australia: Wikinews interviews David Liebelt, South Gippsland local election candidate

Monday, September 27, 2021

Since June 2019, the people of South Gippsland Shire, located at the southernmost tip of Australia, have been without a local council, after a state government inquiry found "high levels of tension" within the council. Administrators were appointed by the Victorian state government in July 2019, who have governed the shire since then. However, South Gippsland's council is scheduled to be restored with an election to be held via post from October 5–22, 2021.

Port Welshpool in Victoria.
Image: Phillip Capper.

Wikinews interviewed one of the candidates standing in this election, David Liebelt, an independent candidate running in the Coastal-Promontory Ward. The Coastal-Promontory ward covers towns such as Venus Bay, Waratah Bay, Yanakie, Foster, Port Welshpool, and Toora, and elects three councillors to the South Gippsland Shire Council.


 ((WN )) What do you hope to achieve as a councillor?

 ((David Liebelt )) As a councillor I hope to represent the all the people of the Coastal Ward as well as the people of the entire South Gippsland Shire. I believe I can represent the "Quiet Majority". The employees; farmers; small business people; the tradies; the retired and the holidays makers. We have, for too long been represented by people with narrow agendas. My focus will be on local community issues and not Federal and State Government distractions. I will work to ensure the most appropriate allocation of resources so that the Council can be seen as delivering value for money.

 ((WN )) Do you think the two-year period that South Gippsland Shire has been governed by administrators since its 2019 sacking has been too long, and why/why not?

 ((David Liebelt )) The two year period under administration has been too long and the Administrators have performed poorly in their duties when it comes to listening to the community and delivering on community needs. Decision have been made against community wishes; extensive waste on reviews; consultants and feasibility studies that have not delivered the appropriate outcomes.

 ((WN )) Wilsons Promontory National Park, which takes up the majority of Coastal-Promontory ward's land area, attracts a significant amount of tourists on a yearly basis. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the current lockdown, there has been a large impact on local businesses. What do you think needs to be done to help business recovery?

 ((David Liebelt )) The Prom is not the only tourist attraction affected by COVID-19. We have for too long neglected other valuable tourist attractions in preference for the Prom. I am currently looking into the allocation of the Council's $2 million community support package. Very few small businesses have seen any benefit from this package. I think the Council needs to immediately provide support for all outdoor community activities that any business wants to develop. We need to reduce the red tape involved in getting these projects off the ground; let's think outside the square for a change and stop relying on developing compliance checklists to justify the bureaucrats existence.

 ((WN )) What changes and reforms would you like to see in regards to environmental protection?

Cattle grazing on a Yarra Valley farm.
Image: CSIRO.

 ((David Liebelt )) We need to recognises that our farmers are strong environmentalists. We need to support our farmers better by providing rate relief for environmental initiatives. I am a strong believer in Habitat Corridors. These link wildlife communities and strengthen biodiversity. I would encourage a masterplan of Habitat Corridors across the Shire. Corridors that link our coastal reserves to our ranges.

 ((WN )) What do you think qualifies you to be a local councillor?

 ((David Liebelt )) I have extensive small business management experience. I have extensive experience in people management and community involvement. I have an education in Economics, Finance and Small Business. I have completed studies in Climatology and Coastal & Fluvial Geomorphology. I have the ability to listen. My life experiences have taught me patience and empathy. Not all decisions will be popular, but they will be delivered honestly.

 ((WN )) In your local community, are there any specific projects you'd like to highlight and advocate for?

 ((David Liebelt )) I will advocate for a better allocation of resources to our small communities. Better value for the rate dollars spent. I will look to improve the services delivered by the small community Centres and community Health Centres. I will look to improve the services available for our elderly to try to assist them to stay longer in the community cities they love. As I mentioned I would look to be part of a Masterplan for Habitat Corridors in conjunction with the farming community and Parks Victoria.

 ((WN )) During the COVID-19 lockdown, how have you reached out to local voters?

 ((David Liebelt )) Contact is made via the local small businesses and hospitality businesses. Social media has become a part of life; now it becomes an important conduit for ideas, advice and information.

 ((WN )) Have you ever run for a political office prior to your current candidacy for council?

 ((David Liebelt )) I have never run for a political position in any form before this.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.