In Noosa the game of musical chairs has begun in the lead up to the 2024 Noosa Council election in March and the Queensland State Election in October.
As speculated widely around town over the last week or two, it appears Mayor Clare Stewart will run for the LNP here in Noosa against Independent Sandy Bolton.
Nominations have now closed and it’s been confirmed the LNP applicant review committee was left with a single candidate – Mayor Stewart.
Sources within the LNP tell us her friend Leigh McCready was told a couple of weeks ago that she would not be successful in her bid for nomination because of concerns about some of the ‘baggage’ she now carries.
Many locals will remember Ms McCready’s high profile role in the last Noosa election campaign when the Independent Council Election Observer (ICEO) found she was in fact a Property Developer and had been supporting “Future Noosa” candidates, despite misleading claims from the team that they had no connection to developers. Ms McCready has also had a long connection with the controversial campaign to build a large ‘surf club’ hotel on the dune overlooking Peregian Beach in place of the older and smaller surf club building in the foreshore park.
Despite all this, there’s speculation that Ms McCready, having dropped out of contention for the seat of Noosa, may now plan a run for Council.
What next for Noosa Council and its mayor?
There are lots of difficult questions that can now be posed for our Council, and indeed Noosa’s future. As we report elsewhere in Noosa Matters, the State Government this week opened the door to a massive increase in population and development for South-East Queensland, including something like 19,000 extra residents in Noosa and the possibility of high-rise here up to 8 storeys.
The problem for Mayor Stewart, who campaigned against some aspects of our Town Plan four years ago, is that from here on every time she uses the Council PR machine it will be seen as her personal campaigning for the seat of Noosa.
Will the other Councillors find a way to call this out and attempt to ensure the Mayor walks that fine line between advocating for Noosa and advancing her own political cause?
It’s hard to imagine Noosa’s Mayor and local member presenting a genuinely united front as they battle to save Noosa from over-development when they are about to square off in the 2024 election.
Ms Stewart just managed to roll former Mayor Tony Wellington in 2020 with a campaign spend of 10-times more than his. Local political watchers suggest it will take a lot more than that to take out the popular and hard-working Independent MP Sandy Bolton.
And who wants to be our next Mayor?
There’s no prize for guessing who Mayor Clare Stewart will be supporting to replace her. Councillor Amelia Lorentson and the Mayor have been an almost inseparable double-act on the local campaign trail for more than four years. As the local joke goes, the most dangerous place in Noosa is standing between these two and a camera.
We’re guessing that Ms Lorentson may be one of two of the current Councillors to put their hands up for the Mayoral contest. This will become clear in the next few days as the field quickly narrows. Watch this space.