Six questions for the council candidates

IN the lead-up to this month’s local government elections, New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News put 15 questions to all 18 candidates seeking election to the Derwent Valley Council. The questions cover a broad range of topics based on questions and comments received from readers. Candidates were also invited to submit a general statement at the end of the questions.

Three days past the deadline, not all candidates have provided responses at this stage. The editor acknowledges that answering the questions took time, and the effort of those who have participated is greatly appreciated. The first six questions, and the answers received, appear below. These introduce us to the candidates. The responses are published without alteration other than minor editing.

The remaining nine questions and answers will be published in two further instalments this week. Those candidates who have not yet returned their answers are still welcome to do so. Readers are welcome to comment. Please note that under the electoral regulations your first name, surname, and town of residence must be included for publication with your question, statement or comment. Candidates: If I have made any errors in compiling these answers, please let me know. Damian Bester, Editor

1. Why are you standing for election and for which positions?

PHILLIP BIGG: I have put forth my name to run for councillor and deputy mayor in this election as I believe I can offer a fresh voice for the community to help achieve beneficial outcomes for the many, not just a few.

PHILLIP BINGLEY: I am standing for both councillor and mayor because I believe my 39-year local government career equips me with the experience and knowledge to mindfully lead our council.

PETER BINNY: I’m standing for the position of mayor and councillor. I intend to make a difference for the whole municipality by directing my extensive skills and knowledge, gained during my career, to the advantage of the ratepayers and residents.

LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.

DEB CARNES: I’m standing for councillor. I’ve got a strong background in health and detailed knowledge that would be useful to council, especially in the areas of health policy, public health and wellbeing.

HEATHER CHAPLIN: I am advocating for Wellbeing in my community.

JESSICA COSGROVE: I am recontesting my current seat of Derwent Valley Council deputy mayor and councillor. I have lived in the Derwent Valley my entire life and my passion for our community is what motivates me to advocate positively and work hard to make our region the best place to live, work, visit and invest.

JUSTIN DERKSEN: I am standing for the position of councillor on the Derwent Valley Council as an energetic, dedicated, hardworking member of the community.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: I will be recontesting the position of mayor at the upcoming local government election. My priority is to serve the communities of the Derwent Valley by consulting widely and then advocating for the issues and concerns that are raised, in continuation of the work I have done since being elected to the role in February 2022.

JAMES GRAHAM: I’m standing to be a councillor to play an active role in making informed decisions on how and why we spend our rates.

MATT HILL: Like many other individuals, I am proud and passionate for the Derwent Valley and want to make a positive difference. I am standing for the position of councillor.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.

BRETT MARYNIAK: I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering in the Derwent Valley, and I know my skills, knowledge and experience would be valuable on council. It also gives me the opportunity to build upon what I have already achieved by providing me with the opportunity to make an even bigger impact in the community we love and share. I’m an advocate for true transparency and good governance and I’m standing for councillor.

EVE NELSON: I am running for councillor. As an active member of the Derwent Valley community I want to be part of the solution we need, to be innovative, progressive and become a thriving community for our future and our families’ futures.

WAYNE SHOOBRIDGE: I am standing for councillor and deputy mayor because I feel the current council has lost its way. Having levied one of the biggest rate rises in recent history tells me something is gravely wrong.

LIZ VIRTUE: I’m standing for councillor. I believe I have a lot to offer as a small business owner and operator in the tourism and hospitality industry with a background in administration in state and federal government.

BRODY WIGGINS: I am standing for the role as councillor, I am running because I believe the council can do more for youth services and programs.

NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

2. What are your three key priorities for this election?


  1. To have a pragmatic approach to decisions made by council ensuring real forethought and consideration for the future of our valley with a precise goal of getting things done efficiently.
  2. To bring some good old gumption into decisions instead of being politically-lead.
  3. To keep the best interests of the communities of the Derwent Valley at the forefront of the minds of council members, actively encouraging community members to contribute their thoughts, ideas and concerns rather than simply pushing personal views of what might be needed.


  1. Have council focus on the maintenance and improvement of its infrastructure (roads, footpaths, sports grounds etc) and its facilities (public toilets etc ).
  2. Introduce a “Managed Rating Strategy”. This will “cap” rate rises to minimise the potential of bill shock as annual assessed values (AAV) for residential properties rise. I don’t want assessed annual value (AAV) increases to result in residents rates skyrocketing , as happened this year at Maydena where rates jumped by as much as 48%.
  3. Getting council to live within a budget. Families, pensioners and small business owners are suffering cost of living increases in all directions , from interest rate hikes , to petrol price increases and increasing rents. As a councillor I was so disappointed, that rather than looking for savings within the budget to help minimise this years rate increase , council approved a 9% rate increase. I believe that if our community has to tighten their financial belts, so does council.


  1. Increase the rate base.
  2. Reduce overall costs of council.
  3. Improve maintenance of all public facilities.

LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.


  1. My main concern is the low socio-economic level in the community and the impact this has on health and wellbeing mainly due to difficulty accessing services alongside the challenge of a growing population.
  2. Secondly balancing development alongside our unique heritage.
  3. Thirdly, working to develop a strong business environment that offers the local kids an opportunity to obtain employment locally. I grew up in a rural town and had to move away for school, university and work so I know how hard it is to leave family and friends in order to obtain a job and/or a career.


  1. Climate Change Warmer water is now surrounding Tasmania, loss of shade is exposing the ground to record evaporation, and likely inundation. Carbon emissions have sky rocketed and clearing and wildlife extinctions are at unbelievable levels. Solutions could be found in jobs that regenerate our natural environment and align with human integrity.
  2. Sustainable Tourism is ideally situated and could be expanded and better promoted by a Tourist Information Centre. With State Government subsidy of a local furniture making industry (Ikea-like), and sustainable, commercial hemp crops for use in paper and cloth manufacture (with safeguards similar to poppy crops), are within grasp.
  3. I will work collaboratively with other adults in council to achieve community wellbeing and support decisions that build community resilience, create safe opportunities for learning and growth, and approve developments that support residents to make healthy choices.

JESSICA COSGROVE: I cannot possibly limit my priorities to three, in fact I will advocate on any issues that are important to the residents and ratepayers who live in our community, and that would be done with thorough consultation with all. Over the past four years that I have served the community in my role as deputy mayor, I have found the key issues and needs of our community can rapidly evolve. Unprecedented events such as the global pandemic, bushfires, and floods which have been experienced during my time on council has given me the wisdom to understand that you can not enter Council with the mindset to achieve certain things on your agenda, as you need to be prepared for growth and change. Having said that, attracting investors into our region is one of my priorities as there is a real need for increased retail outlets, as well as and greater opportunities for the youth within our region. With the current conditions of some roads in the Derwent Valley Municipality, we need to make sure that we ensure that grant money is obtained from both State and Federal Governments to fund infrastructure upgrades, as our rate base is generally low in comparison to the large area of land we cover. We must make sure that those grants are used in the most effective and sustainable way and work closely with the government to make sure we get it right to meet the needs of our growing and evolving community. This can also be achieved by careful budget planning to ensure we are acting in line with the Derwent Valley Council’s Strategic plan and by having well-planned and supported infrastructure to meet the growing demands of the region.

Attracting investors into our region is another one of my priorities as there is a real need for increased retail outlets. Local businesses are essential for the growth and development of our economy; by working closely with our local business community, Council can create a better environment for businesses who invest in our region. Our Investment Prospectus is a vital advocacy document to help encourage businesses to invest in the Derwent Valley, this document highlights the very best of our growing region and list the reasons as to why business should invest in the Derwent Valley.

Working closely with the local business community and helping drive shop-local marketing and tourist campaigns would go a long way in helping support the local economy. High St is currently having improvements made to the streetscape; having a nicer environment and accessibility for customers to shop will assist in supporting the business economy and encouraging businesses to invest here.

JUSTIN DERKSEN: My three key priorities for this Local Government Election are Tourism and Small Business, Skills and Training along with the importance of whole of community representation for the benefit of all community members.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: My priority is to recognise and respond to the needs of our electorate.


  1. Continue to be a good employer by meeting our $6,409,928 ‘Employment Benefits’ commitment.
  2. Continue the process of reducing the debt over the next four years, no new borrowing, and maintaining our infrastructure priority assesment (above and under ground). Promote value for money when needing to renew assets.
  3. Management of waste relative effort for potential benefits (getting it right) and emergency management around weather events (floods and fire).


  1. Best value for money services.
  2. Improved community consultation.
  3. Involvement and communication.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.


  1. I am focused on ensuring council fosters a sense of community connection and encourages social participation.
  2. I want to see considered, sensible and sustainable infrastructure development that accommodates our current and future needs, including ensuring that our roads and intersections are safe for traffic and pedestrians.
  3. Supporting our cultural, tourism and small business sectors to the benefit of the community is also a top priority for me.


  1. Support of local business in their growth.
  2. Skills training for the local community to work in local business to ensure future success for the community.
  3. Career pathways and job opportunities for all facets of the community, this includes Healthcare, Tourism, Hospitality, Retail and Education.


  1. To get council on a proper direction of looking after ratepayers and residents,
  2. To find out where the council has been spending its money, and to start spending on our roads and other infrastructure.
  3. To provide a voice of reason and in all good conscience work as part of a team.


  1. Ethics. I have observed unethical behaviour from some aspiring and past councillors and some members of the business community. I will not be a bystander when I observe bullying or other inappropriate conduct.
  2. Informed decision-making. The most recent six months have seen a positive change in the culture of the council. I don’t want to see it revert to disfunction, division and chaos.
  3. Clear and open communication. Means of communication with residents have never been so accessible yet the council and some councillors miss opportunities to convey important and helpful information to residents.


  1. Youth programs.
  2. Repairs of a lot of our roads.
  3. Reducing unnecessary spending.

NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

3. Have you been a member of a political party this year, if so which party?

PHILLIP BIGG: I have not been a member of any political party.


PETER BINNY: Yes, I’m the president of the local branch of the Liberal Party. I’ve already used my position to advance issues in the Derwent Valley and will continue to do so if elected or not. I am NOT a Liberal Party endorsed candidate.

LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.

DEB CARNES: I’ve been a member of the ALP since December 1995. I moved here to work for former Federal Labor MP Dick Adams but left that job in May 2009 to concentrate on completing my PhD which I achieved in 2015. I’m not a member of a faction and my candidacy for councillor is not endorsed by the ALP so I’m effectively running as an independent (ie not bound by party policy or platform). I’ve got an long history of active membership of community and professional organisations where I’ve declared/managed any potential perceived conflict of interest when needed.

HEATHER CHAPLIN: I’m a member with the Tasmanian Greens – a party that prioritises looking after community and our environment. It’s a growing party that doesn’t accept corporate donations.


JUSTIN DERKSEN: I am a proud member of the Liberal Party.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: I am a member of the Labor party and my underpinning philosophy is the egalitarian treatment of all people regardless of status or wealth. Being a member of a political party indicates that I am aware of what I stand for and what my priorities are for both our state and federal governments, however party politics have no place and indeed no policy at a local government level.


MATT HILL: No, I have not been a member of any political party this year.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.

BRETT MARYNIAK: Yes, the Australian Labor Party. It is important to note that I am not running as an endorsed candidate which means I did not seek approval to stand for councillor from the party and I am not receiving any support from the party. As such, its platform and policies will have no impact on my role as councillor. That said, it provides some insight into my most fundamental values, those being fairness, compassion and opportunities to participate in social decision-making. I have worked for several Tasmanian politicians, representing both state and federal electorates, giving me insight into our political and parliamentary processes, knowledge which I will be able to use in local government.



LIZ VIRTUE: I’ve been a member of the Derwent Valley Branch of the Labor Party since 7 September 2020. My motivation to join was a strong desire for a change of federal government at that time. I had never been a member of a political party previously. I am not a member of a Labor faction. I have not sought or received preselection or endorsement.

BRODY WIGGINS: No, I have not.

NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

4. Do you work in government or for a political party, if so, in what capacity?

PHILLIP BIGG: I have not worked in government or for any political party.

PHILLIP BINGLEY: No – retired.


LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.

DEB CARNES: No. I work for an NDIS provider and have my own small business as a health and wellness coach, looking to expand into mental health counselling/psychotherapy when I’ve completed my mental health nursing qualification (should be by November this year).

HEATHER CHAPLIN: I have worked in Government or Public Services – as a Registered Nurse, and 10 years as a Bus Operator/Supervisor at Metro Tasmania improving public safety and developing Customer Service training. I retired in 2020 as COVID-19 arrived.


JUSTIN DERKSEN: I work for the Tasmanian Government as an Adviser in Veterans’ Affairs.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: I do not work for the government or a political party.

JAMES GRAHAM: Yes, I’m a sitting councillor of the Derwent Valley Council.

MATT HILL: I do not currently work in government or for a political party. However, I have over 19 years in government and non-government organisations; including 15-years as an employee in the Local Government sector.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.

BRETT MARYNIAK: I am a senior media consultant working at the Department of State Growth, which is an apolitical role. As part of this role however, I do work very closely with the Tasmanian Government, its ministers and their staff.

EVE NELSON: No. I am self-employed with no affiliation to any political party.


LIZ VIRTUE: No and no.


NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

5. Are you campaigning with, or in support of, or have you endorsed, any other candidates in this election?

PHILLIP BIGG: I am in great support of mayor Michelle Dracoulis to be re-elected as mayor of the Derwent Valley Council as I feel she has shown great strength, character and leadership in this role, as I believe to not have Mayor Dracoulis fighting for the valley would put us back in time. I have worked closely with Mayor Dracoulis in beginning my campaign to be elected as councillor and deputy mayor this election. I am also in support of current councillors Woods and deputy mayor Cosgrove in their re-election to council.

PHILLIP BINGLEY: No – totally independent.


LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.

DEB CARNES: No. I’m running my own race but expect there will be some issues where candidates have similar views and opinions to mine, just as there will be those who will have opposing views.

HEATHER CHAPLIN: I’m a member of the Greens but pretty much running my own campaign.

JESSICA COSGROVE: I am not actively campaigning with other candidates; however, I am supportive of any candidate whom in my opinion is of a good nature and upholds a high-level of integrity. I pride myself on campaigning in a positive manner and will always encourage members of our community with the passion and desire to represent our community to stand for Local Government. Since March, I have established a corroborative working relationship with Mayor Dracoulis and throughout the election period we continue to work closely together in our leadership roles.

JUSTIN DERKSEN: I have not endorsed or supported any other candidates as I believe the local government elections are about the community voting for who they want on their council based on an individuals merits.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: I am supportive of the majority of candidates contesting this election. My priority is the culture of the council moving forward and I believe we have nominations from excellent candidates of all political persuasions. That being said, working with deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove has been a highlight of my time on council and I am proud of the leadership team we have become.


MATT HILL: I am not endorsed or aligned with any other candidate. However if elected, I am committed to working alongside my fellow councillors.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.

BRETT MARYNIAK: No, but I do have pre-existing personal and professional relationships with a number of other candidates which gives me confidence that I would be able to work with any of them as part of a future Derwent Valley Council.

EVE NELSON: I am supporting all of our candidates who are wanting to collaborate and work together in making decisions in the best interest of the community. There will be times when councillors disagree. When this happens there should be respectful debate with open and transparent discussion. There is no place for self-promotion or disrespect on council.


LIZ VIRTUE: I have publicly stated my support of Michelle Dracoulis for mayor as I did during the by-election early this year. I have shared on social media posts of and about other candidates who I would consider voting for myself. I am not in a bloc or team of candidates.

BRODY WIGGINS: I am campaigning with the support of several candidates and I have also endorsed one of the candidates.

NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

6. How many council meetings have you attended this year (in any capacity)?

PHILLIP BIGG: I have attended seven council meetings and intend to attend any upcoming scheduled meetings.


PETER BINNY: All of them.

LUKE BROWNING: Response not yet received.

DEB CARNES: Study commitments have prevented me from attending any council meetings, but those study commitments will be done and dusted by November. Because I’ve devoted time to study I know I can devote future time to council if elected.

HEATHER CHAPLIN: I haven’t attended a council meeting this year. I have read the online Agenda and Minutes for July and August 2022 council meetings, and have read the Strategic Plan – Our Valley 2030.

JESSICA COSGROVE: Fourteen, including public, special, and closed council meetings.

JUSTIN DERKSEN: I have attended several council meetings as a concerned member of the public.

MICHELLE DRACOULIS: I have attended every council meeting since February this year, and chaired them all since March.

JAMES GRAHAM: I believe as a rater payer studying agendas and asking questions it could be close to 100%. As a councillor, I have perfect attendance at council meetings.

MATT HILL: I have attended all Council meetings (including Special and closed) in 2022 as a Councillor. I was elected via recount during December 2021.

SARA LOWE: Response not yet received.

BRETT MARYNIAK: None, though I do read the agenda and minutes of every council meeting. I recognise reading council papers or attending meetings in person can be a barrier for some people to engage with council. I believe council meetings should be more open and accessible, including by livestreaming them and by reforming the council’s public question time policy to encourage wider participation.

EVE NELSON: I have not attended meetings in person however I make it a habit to listen to recorded
meetings regularly.

WAYNE SHOOBRIDGE: Including September, seven.

LIZ VIRTUE: At least two. I haven’t kept a record.

BRODY WIGGINS: I am campaigning with the support of several candidates and I have also endorsed one of the candidates.

NATASHA WOODS: Response not yet received.

CORRECTIONS: Earlier versions of this article contained errors in the answers provided by Brody Wiggins (Question 5) and Matt Hill (Question 4), which have been corrected.

DISCLOSURE: Wayne Shoobridge is a contractor for New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News but played no part in this Q&A other than as a participating candidate.


  1. What a good idea. Excellent questions and well done to all those who have answered. It gives a great opportunity to expand on the 2 minutes provided at the community forum. Am so impressed with all the candidates who fronted to the forum too – bravo! To reiterate Steve Balmforth’s comment – it is not easy putting yourself forward for public office, so good on you all.
    Am guessing there will be further questions and answers to come? Hopefully those who haven’t yet contributed will do so too.
    Ngaire Glover

  2. This is fan*TAS*tic thank you for the opportunity to be part of this history. I was in Maydena today and there appears to be a lot of interest around the fact that for some it will be their first time voting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Local Weather

COVID-19 Advice and Links

Latest headlines

Filter by topic

New Norfolk News Archive

RSS Tas articles feed

Logo of New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News

Subscribe to free daily news email

* indicates required
/ ( mm / dd )