Posted 7/10/16  Updated 12/10/16


Macedon Ranges Shire Council Elections, 2016


MRRA Home  Result How Votes Are Counted About MRRA




The 2016 Council Election Candidates: 

Who MRRA Would (And Wouldn't) Vote For


MRRA is entitled, under its Purposes and democratic principles, to form and express views. 



Candidate Assessments:  East Ward    South Ward    West Ward   



Comparison of MRRA assessments with the Forum for Democratic Reform "traffic light" assessments



How MRRA Assessed Candidates


The Association developed questions about a range of issues and asked 'new' candidates (those that haven't been councillors before) to respond.  We sincerely thank those who did.  Questions included where they lived and for how long; what they do; participation in community activities; involvement in and knowledge of council issues; the biggest issues confronting council; positions on Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 and protection for Macedon Ranges, environment, growth, development in rural areas;  economic development such as the equine centre, Kyneton airfield, Hanging Rock, proposed Mount Macedon commercialisation; and what candidates considered to be their strengths.


Existing and previous councillors are assessed on their records, and knowledge of performances across the term. 


Assessment of candidates occurred at two Association meetings.  Note: Any MRRA members that are endorsing, managing or scrutineering for any candidates were declared conflicted and excluded from deliberations. 



What We Were Looking For


The Association has assessed 'new' candidates against their knowledge / experience / participation in council and community issues, values, commitment to community, strength of character.   Why?  

Who MRRA Would Vote For


In this report, all candidates are first assessed, in ballot order in each ward. Here we give reasons for our conclusions.  These are followed by a simple summary of assessments, ranking candidates best to last.


Based on our criteria, there are four (4) quality candidates in each ward that MRRA would vote for: six men and six women.  Only nine can be elected. 


East ward    Hilary Roberts     Nicole Rowan   Natasha Gayfer   Bill West  

South ward:   Helen Radnedge    Andrew Twaits    Mandi Mees     Jamie Byron    

West ward:    Jennifer Anderson    Luke Spielvogel   Janet Pearce   Ron Rutledge


In MRRA's view, these candidates bring together desirable skills, experiences, knowledge, professional backgrounds and standards, and community connectedness, along with a commitment to raising governance and operational standards, changing council's direction and priorities, getting finances under control and out in the open, making council efficient, transparent and accountable, protecting Macedon Ranges and our environment, putting sustainability into practice, introducing a community-endorsed strategic and policy basis for decision-making, and engaging, consulting and building trust with the community.  


Within this group MRRA believes there are differences in strengths, skills, age and interests that produce diversity within shared objectives and priorities, not least a determination to lift all standards at council, and to reach out to this community.  Our recommendation of these candidates comes with unequivocal anticipation that new councillors will live up to the expectations they have fostered.  Most of these candidates are stronger in some areas than others; all new councillors must of necessity be taken with some degree of trust. 


Of these candidates, only one is a current councillor (Anderson).  Nicole Rowan is an endorsed Greens candidate.  All others are running as independent candidates (two have affiliations with a political party but are not endorsed candidates:  ALP, Byron and Gayfer).  One candidate (Helen Radnedge) is a member of MRRA (membership currently suspended)  see MRRA policy for member candidates



Candidate Assessments:  East Ward    South Ward    West Ward   

Candidate contact details

Candidates' Statements - Victorian Electoral Commission:

2012 MRRA Candidate Assessments

2008 Council Election: MRRA Candidate Star Ratings

2005 Council Election: MRRA Candidate Star Ratings



# RCOG  "Ranges Citizens for Open Government" is a local non-party-political group formed last year to promote open and informed government.  Its purpose was to educate people thinking of running for council about core local government issues, including mentoring by locally-based professionals.  Several candidates attended RCOG workshops and events.  RCOG Charter




Note:  Photographs are sourced from 2016 candidates' statements, VEC website (link above).  Apologies, but these are not high quality and are printing poorly. 

EAST WARD II candidates (in ballot paper order)           East Ward Assessment Summary
Candidate MRRA Assessment

Natasha GAYFER


Responded to MRRA (phone interview):  Summary:  Lives at Newham, 8 years.   Has a Masters qualification and works in waste and resource management, and recycling.  Wants to put this knowledge to use at council, including a program to avoid, as well as deal with, waste.  Is involved with Landcare, Friends of Hanging Rock and Hanging Rock Action Group.  Has attended numerous council meetings, and participated in the #RCOG program.

Has an interest in planning, and from her role in opposing the Hanging Rock development is aware of failings in council attitudes and processes, including community consultation. 

Biggest issues for council include not enough forward-thinking or strategic planning/thinking; improving consultation and internal operations (departments don't talk to each other); and better priority setting (stop blaming rates-capping).  Development is being approved without thinking about infrastructure, and there is insufficient balance / not enough being done for conservation and natural values. Submitted to the Macedon Ranges Protection Advisory Committee, and supports the best protection for the area.  Is concerned about the amount of growth.  Wants briefing on Kyneton airfield.  

Founding member, Hanging Rock Action Group, which stood up to council about its appalling behaviour with Hanging Rock.  HRAG successfully worked with State and Federal governments to bring added protection to the Rock, and greater transparency and accountability through changed management arrangements. 

Natasha would bring a professional, forward-looking approach, a commitment to community consultation, improved governance and priority setting, and an important and welcome understanding of and focus on sustainability and environment. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   YES.  

Henry BLEECK ***


***  Previous Councillor

Elected via bye-election after resignation of Cr. Joe Morabito in August 2004, re-elected 2005 (Mount William ward); unsuccessful 2008, unsuccessful 2012 (East ward).

Here's what MRRA said about Mr. Bleeck in 2012:

A former one-and-a bit-term Councillor, defeated in the 2008 election when he ran with the support of the Sporting Shooters Association.  Surprisingly, the first attribute he claims on his flyer this time is 'environment'.  Rarely spoke in chamber last time around, and made little contribution.  It's difficult to see how he would make one this time, if elected. Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Not the worst, but never brilliant either, and not for us.

His candidate statement this time claims he has a "proven record on environmental" issues. 

Often voted with the 'boys' on council when last a councillor, though usually without saying why.  It's difficult to see how he would make a positive if any difference this time, if elected. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   NO.  Time to move on.  Better candidates are available.

Ian ELLIS **

** Current Councillor

Ran but not elected in 2012. 

Subsequently elected via a countback in November 2014 following former Cr. Joe Morabito's resignation (East ward).


Elected in a countback in November 2014 after another councillor resigned.  Almost hasn't been heard of since.  One exception was last December, when he began to move a motion to overturn an officer's recommendation to refuse a dwelling on rural land, then dropped the ball by announcing he had assisted the applicant with their planning application.  Community Luddites in the gallery that night thought maybe the councillor should have declared a conflict of interest.

Another policeman from Romsey, no-one is really sure what his policies are, except perhaps more of the same as now. Mostly seems to be just a hand in the air voting pretty much with the wrong-uns in the boys' club.  In other words, seems to support the things that are going wrong at council.  No obviously redeeming or desirable features come to mind. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Computer says 'NO'. 

Nicole ROWAN



Responded to MRRA (phone interview):   Summary:  Lives Riddells Creek, 3 years.  Australian lawyer (has worked on Commonwealth laws), policy affairs background.   Involved with improving governance and treasurer of Greens; Rural Australians for Refugees and Getting Riddell Right groups.  Has attended council meetings for the past year; and participated in the #RCOG program.  Sought professional advice about planning, particularly amendments.

Biggest issues for council include delegations, poor communication with community, lack of strategic basis in governance and planning, unhelpful economic priority; making decisions without consultation; transparency; improvement to how the organisation functions.  Need to open up communication (e.g. microphones, record council meetings); ensure sustainability (economic, environmental, social, and governance); take council focus and priorities away from 'individual' and make more about 'community'.

Supports protection for Macedon Ranges; wants more information about growth and the Clarkefield development; equine centre - concerns about spending money on exclusive project that has to be a private development, and unequal access to it.  Concerns about public land.

Considers her strengths to be legal, financial, strategic and policy skills, wants to see more community participation in finances, sees community / local groups as a conduit to partnerships.  

Would be a strong councillor. No-nonsense approach, experience and professional background is impressive.  This candidate is needed at council. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   YES.  Put in top two.




Responded to MRRA (questionnaire):   Summary:  Lives on family farm near Lancefield; lifetime resident.  Retired newspaper journalist/editor (Kyneton, Gisborne and Kilmore); gained first-hand knowledge of local government attending hundreds of council meetings across former and current Shires, and is intrigued by planning. Has dealt with parliamentarians over the years. Strong interests and involvement in local sporting and other groups.    

Biggest issues for council include planning, financial management (rate capping probably here to stay), infrastructure provision, environment, local employment.  State government must live up to its promises on protecting Macedon Ranges; environment must be to the forefront, with council leadership and support for community and individuals. 

Keep the brakes on accelerated growth and use existing zones before expanding towns; Clarkefield growth should not even be considered unless cast iron guarantee on water;  houses should not "pop up" everywhere in rural areas, adhere to zonings and comply with planning laws, exceptional circumstances to be a rarity. Villawood - ridiculous with amount of residential land still available. 

Equine centre - council to be wary of expenditure on unproven projects lacking guaranteed government financial support. Kyneton airfield - project seems very questionable; Hanging Rock - unique tourism attraction, should not be over-commercialised and ruined. 

Considers strengths to be an ability to listen and not pre-judge issues; can work with others.  Believes in common sense approach and consultation with community members and groups.  Has time for council; does not support party politics in council; has a wide knowledge of Macedon Ranges, strongly believes in benefits of sporting participation.

Honest broker, with knowledge and experience of council workings and issues, a long memory, and a community-based perspective.  Has the history of the place, and an admirable "bulldust-meter".  

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   YES. 

Randall BICK

Did not respond to MRRA questionnaire.  Lives in Riddells Creek

Was (with 13 other landowners) a submitter earlier this year to planning scheme amendment C100 (Riddells Creek Structure Plan), unsuccessfully requesting his land be rezoned for urban development, south of the railway line at Riddells Creek (additional to the 130ha already slated for urban development in C100).

Without anything else showing other involvement or experience in council issues, Mr. Bick's reference in his candidate statement to "This council has an important role to coordinate controlled population growth." does make you wonder whether or not running for council might be connected in some way to that rezoning. 

 Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Based on available information, NO.




Did not respond to MRRA questionnaire.  

Romsey-based artist.  Unsuccessfully ran for council in 2012, sending her preferences first to current councillor McLaughlin and then current councillor Ellis (Cr. Ellis preferenced her in return).

No known interests, involvement in or experience with council issues, and the reason for running is not clear. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?    NO.   Others have stronger credentials.

Graham HACKETT *


* Current Councillor 

Elected 2012.

Preferenced well and was elected in 2012.  He got into some hot water when he controversially picked up a bundle of voters ballot papers from Riddells Creek post office and delivered them to the returning office at Kyneton.

In 2008, ran as a candidate for Macedon Ranges Residents Secretariat Ltd, a company which unsuccessfully ran 10 candidates across the Shire in that election.  MRRA rated him half a star (out of 5) then, and would probably do the same today.  

Current Mayor.  Usually votes with the boys' club at council.  He seconded an alternative motion to endorse 130ha of new urban development land south of the railway line at Riddells Creek (December, 2013), without any community consultation. 

Such a part of the problem at council, we can't see him ever being part of the solution.

 Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   NO.   Pull up the drawbridge - put him last (No. 11).   



Responded to MRRA (questionnaire):  Summary:  Lives Newham, 12 years. Has 30 years' experience in senior management and finance, now retired. Involved with primary school council, Friends of Hanging Rock, Hanging Rock Action Group; treasurer of Landcare group.  Reads council budgets; some knowledge of planning scheme amendments.  Was on MRSC Financial committee; has attended council meetings regularly for 3 years, and participated in the # RCOG program.

Founding member of Hanging Rock Action Group - multiple contacts with councillors and council executive (mostly unsatisfactory due to their reluctance to listen or consider pointed facts). 

Biggest issues for council include financial management, living within tighter constraints and more consideration of real priorities (rate capping); eliminate and avoid borrowing.  Council culture of reluctance to consult community.  Planning policies need to be tightened to avoid ad hoc exceptions; and planning issues need to be fair and consistent. 

Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 - essential!  Environment - our attraction to the outside world is our beautiful landscapes and natural environment - need to be protected at almost any cost.  Opposed to accelerated growth. Limit houses and subdivision in rural areas whenever possible; opposed to Villawood in Woodend. 

Equine centre - needs proper risk assessment and a sensible business case, seems a white elephant until evidence to contrary produced, clarification needed re Werribee Park plans.  Hanging Rock - still under threat, needs rezoning and master plan prioritizing natural environment.  Opposed to commercialisation at Mount Macedon.

Best strengths are financial skills, integrity, no side deals.

Has a professional background, and grass roots connection with environment and community.  Multiple strengths.  Will question, challenge, and not often take ‘no’ for an answer until all the relevant information is made available.  Would be a true asset.

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  YES.  At or near No. 1.

Geoff Neil ****


****  Previous Councillor.

Elected 1997, re-elected (unopposed) 2000, unsuccessful 2003, elected 2005 (all Monegeetta ward); unsuccessful 2008, unsuccessful 2012 (East ward).


MRRA rated him 1 star in 2005, and half a star in 2008, out of a possible 5 stars.

Here's what we said about him in 2012:

"One of the "has-beens", a previous Councillor who has been voted in, voted out, voted in, voted out. 

Once called a Bover Boy, he's on the 'blokey' side, and pro-development in a 1950's way. Only thinks "oh-oh, over-development" when applications come up in Romsey - everywhere else is fair game.  Loved being Mayor, and who will ever forget the photo of Mayor Geoff - Mr Can Do - with a phone in each hand, standing on his crowning glory: the Gisborne Call Centre building site?  Eeeuwww. The Shire can't afford to go as far back into the past as we think this candidate would take it."

And here he is, back again in 2016.  Can sound terrific on a flyer, but take note of the pattern:  elected, not re-elected, elected not re-elected.  Also watch out for that 'common sense approach to rural land', and more growth needed in Romsey.  Likes growth and development, and economic development (loved the Gisborne Call Centre!), and in 2008 (i.e. the last time he was on council) threw his support behind developing Clarkefield with 3,000 people.   Scary.  

 Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   NO, NO, NO.   Been there, done that, regretted it.  


Did not respond to MRRA's emailed questionnaire.  No phone number provided.

Unknown but possibly from Romsey.  No information, no contact, no known campaign flyers, no known internet presence, did not attend East ward "meet the candidates" forum, and his VEC candidate statement consists of 4 words:  "Just getting it done.".   Mystery candidate, impossible to tell where he's coming from.   

Would MRRA vote for this candidate? NO. 





Hilary Roberts
Nicole Rowan

Put one of these candidates at No. 1, and the other at No. 2

Natasha Gayfer
Bill West
Put one of these candidates at No. 3 and the other at No. 4 
Deborah Alford-Kerr No, not in this field. 
Randall Bick NO 
Henry Bleeck ** NO 
Geoff Neil ** NO 
Damien Parolin NO 

Graham Hackett * DEFINITELY NOT – put last (No. 11)

* Current councillor  ** Previous councillor



Note: Two corrections of fact have been made in South ward in response to candidate requests - Mandi Mees and Andrew Twaits.  MRRA apologises for these errors.

SOUTH WARD 8 Candidates (in ballot paper order)                 South Ward Assessment Summary
Candidates MRRA Assessment



Did not return MRRA's call.

Understood to not be a resident of the Shire.  

Although obviously shares most residents' disgust with and deep distrust of council, J.S. (John) is associated with the Route 66 Custom Car, Bike and Truck Club which wants a 1960s style diner, at a long-derelict petrol station site, close to the Calder Freeway, near the Shire's southern boundary.  VicRoads has apparently turned down allowing access to the Freeway, so the diner's not a goer. 

And that's where Mr. Amenta's candidacy risks being seen as a 'single issue' cause. 

Although a sign on this property proclaiming "Macedon Ranges are corrupt" has resonated within the local community, that sentiment seems to be about the extent of connections between the candidate, and the Shire and community. 

Nailed it with that sign, but while the sentiment is right, the connection isn't. 

There's not much information around, but you can read an article that appeared in the Herald Sun on 27 September, and a response from the candidate at Route 66 Club Facebook

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  NO. 

Mandi MEES

Responded to MRRA (phone interview):  Summary:  Lives at Macedon, 6 years.  Policy director within the transport industry (involving public and private sector).  Involved in Macedon Village Volunteers, Macedon Community and Village Centre plans, and art / beautification works at Macedon. Is a recreational pilot.  Is a fully licensed pilot. (Correction, with MRRA apologies)  Led / co-ordinated community opposition at VCAT against Macedon development proposal. 

Has read part of Local Government Act (working on it), is aware of the Local Government Act review, Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan, and new Federal “Smart Cities” plan. 

Biggest issues for council include building trust with the community; significantly improving engagement - a new council starting at grass roots.  Plan / strategy / policy needed throughout the organisation about what’s real, what’s possible, and what are the boundaries. Involve the community in a long-term plan. Review council committees and delegations. Planning scheme is not good (strong) enough to protect natural resources.

Supports Statement of Planning Policy No. 8.  Need to protect catchments, natural resources and look after biodiversity.  Need to reassess growth, biodiversity is being affected.  Equine centre – would need to be a priority for the community.  Also local jobs, better networks (including transport, travel).   Kyneton airfield – has flown in and out;  any further development will be modest; fire is important. 

Considers her strengths are strong policy / strategic background, and desire to rebuild trust in council through community engagement and inclusiveness.

Would be an asset on council, bringing professional strategic and policy skills.  Empathy with environment and the need for greater certainty and protection in planning, as well as community inclusion and increased transparency and accountability.  Potential for a conflict of interest with regard to the Kyneton airfield issue would need to be recognised.

Would MRRA vote for  this candidate?  YES.


Responded to MRRA Questionnaire (was in the USA at the time):  Summary:  Lives Mount Macedon, 11 years.  Runs home internet-related business.  No council experience, but through business and associated management experience has good understanding of budgeting and working productively with others.   Keen to see citizen involvement with decision making explored.

Biggest issues for council include energy (active role in green energy); preservation of green zones (bucolic nature of our rural zones); protection of natural habitat; maintaining village atmosphere; encouraging enterprise with a global dimension.

Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 – permits to be approved with the rules designed to kerb urban sprawl.  Villawood – urban sprawl.  Wants alternatives to urban sprawl investigated. Doesn't agree with the type of economic development currently being pursued by council.  Would like to see MRSC take on a pro global stance.  Foster entrepreneurial and new economy activity to drive future jobs.  

Considers strengths are experience and participation in the new economy, and his creativity. 

Great focus on greening, preserving, protecting and exploring more innovative economic development but has no measurable experience / knowledge of council or council/community issues.  Would face an enormous learning curve - to be effective, these new councillors will need to be across at least some of the critical issues, and hit the ground running. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   A reluctant NO, this time around.




* Current Councillor


Elected 1997, 2000 (unopposed), unsuccessful 2003, elected 2005, elected 2008, elected 2012.

Long-time resident of Gisborne.  Policeman.  Also known as "Flipper".  

He has been on council for 17 years.  17 long years.  At the beginning of this council term Flipper said 17 years in 2016 would be enough and he wouldn’t be running again.  He is.

In 2005, MRRA rated John at 0 stars out of 5 stars. This gives you an idea why.

By 2008, a form reversal under then Cr. Tom Gyorffy's mentorship saw MRRA lift John's rating to 3.5 stars out of 5. 

In 2012, although inconsistent, John wasn't malignant.  MRRA gave him another go.  ...What...A...Mistake...  If we were awarding stars at this election, John would be up for -10 out of 5.  This gives you an idea why   It's what John does when you don't agree with him. 

Over the last four years Cr. Letchford has performed 'gold medal' backflips, argued for developers' interests over community interests,  made derogatory and patronising remarks in chamber to female councillors,  become a leading light in the boys' club at council, played tag team in chamber - moved Letchford, seconded Jukes or moved Jukes, seconded Letchford,  told the community and individuals who protest what he does they are 'the people from the town of NO', championed excluding community consultation on the Hanging Rock development proposal, argued against conservation zoning for Daly Nature Reserve,  and fired off dyslexic, aggressive, offensive emails to people in the community.  In essence, he has supported all that is wrong at this council.  From his candidate statement, he intends to keep doing it.

You would surely have rocks in your head to want four more years of this man.  Obsolete thinking, and so often nasty with it.
Isn’t it time he was gelded and put out to pasture?

 Would MRRA vote for  this candidate?  NO.  Put him LAST (number 8).  Give 'Flipper' the Big Flick.


Responded to MRRA (phone interview):  Summary:    Lives Bullengarook, 8 years.  Former CEO Betfair, now Racing Victoria, Cricket Australia and AFL.  Has law and commerce degrees. Involved in Landcare, junior sports and other recreation. pursuits. 

Has read the Council Plan, found statutory deficiencies and identified changes needed;  has read ALL of the Local Government Act; is aware of and has submitted to
(correction, with MRRA apologies) the current Local Government Act review; and has read budgets / Annual Reports.

Biggest issues for council include governance, decision-making, accountability, sports & recreation, planning and planning scheme, infrastructure, and innovation and efficiencies in processes and operations.  Has concerns with transparency for council committees that advise and report to council.  Is aware of issues with growth/accelerated growth, and amenity issues at Mount Macedon, and is a strong opponent of the current equine strategy.

Acknowledges there is a lot to do, but with his law and corporate background, policy and strategic approach, and experience as a CEO, says he's up to the challenge. Will look at it all.

Has not been as active as others in grass roots council activities, such as attending council meetings, but is well across governance, operational, statutory, standards and process - not just what's wrong, but what it should be and how to get there.  Impressive.

For years residents have been told by officers, from the CEO down, that the way council operates is "best practice" when so many know it's laughably not.  This candidate strikes us as having the experience and background to make meaty and complex change happen inside council, from the top down. 

As a 'new broom' would need to be mindful that while sweeping away the corporate and administrative disasters lurking at town hall, 'community' and 'local government' are the core business of a council.

Would MRRA vote for this candidate? YES. 


Responded to MRRA's questionnaire:  Summary:  Lives in Gisborne, 40 years.  Involved with Friends of Daly Nature Reserve, Friends of Gisborne Botanic Gardens, Stanley Park Committee of Management, Federation for Environment and Horticulture in Macedon Ranges, and other natural environment issues, including protection of natural habitat.

Has attended most council meetings over the past 4 years; made and spoken to submissions including at panel hearings  for a planning amendment and Macedon Ranges Protection, and to State and Federal parliamentarians and statutory authorities.

Concerns include lack of accountability and transparency in budget processes, too many planning scheme amendments in quick succession, removal of heritage overlays too easily while no new applied; council 'reviews' of strategies and plans sees them become less prescriptive and protective with fewer actions; strategies being developed without community consultation.

Biggest issues for council include priorities (core responsibilities of council, including environment, local law enforcement, public risk and general maintenance are suffering in favour of projects which are not the responsibility of council), unbalanced advisory committees' list; dealings with the public are not open and transparent; discriminatory behaviour towards sections of the community; divisive manner of promoting projects; tick-box consultation that also targets people outside the Shire. 

Re Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 - still relevant.  Newer documents, like Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan conflict with SPP8 protections.  Environment is the Shire's identity and the most important asset the Macedon Ranges has.   Contamination in Jacksons Creek must be acted on.  Go back to "Our Environment, Our Future".

Accelerated growth - appears to be driven by pecuniary interests.  Villawood - Woodend is not a suburb.  Economic development - seems to be over-riding the public interest, projects lack justification, processes make no sense, not a core responsibility and diverts money from core responsibilities.  Houses on rural land - lacks consistency, not based on planning scheme, will cost community in infrastructure. 

Considers her strengths are determination, researching, questioning, listening to community and caring enough to do something about it.

Helen is a member of MRRA (currently suspended), and while some will see bias, her record speaks for itself.   

Many in the Gisborne district will already know her for the role she has played in saving Daly Nature Reserve from becoming an early years hub, and in pursuing conservation protections for the reserve.  We know her as someone who is smart, thorough, and makes a positive contribution. 

This candidate is across a range of contemporary council issues; knows what it's like to be a resident on the receiving end from council; and is passionate about caring for the environment, heritage, Macedon Ranges, and community.  

MRRA is also recommending three other candidates in South ward who amongst other strengths, have corporate / business / professional backgrounds.  We are recommending this candidate because she has lived in the district longer, has the history of the place and has hands-on community experience and involvement in council and environmental issues.  A good council will be a balanced council.  

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  YES.

Russell MOWATT **

** Current Councillor


Elected 2012.

Ran unsuccessfully on several occasions.

Long-time resident of Shire.  Lives Gisborne.

First elected in 2012.   Didn't go too well in the first half of the term, and showed poor judgement when he supported development, and no community consultation, for the Hanging Rock project.  Not a member of council's repugnant "boys' club", but not necessarily consistent either.  Showed some improvement in the second half, and more recently took the lead in getting Daly Nature Reserve rezoned conservation instead of recreation (as the boys' club wanted), then unsuccessfully called for more community consultation for the Macedon and Mount Macedon village project amendments.  Has a focus on roads and footpaths.  Community rather than corporate, has established a reputation for promptly responding to residents' emails and calls. 

Has had some moments in the sun, but overall not a stellar performance even allowing for the deplorable council we have.  Seeming at times to be more a follower than a leader, could possibly do better with an improved council.  What you see is what you will get. Disappointingly, has preferenced John Letchford highly, fourth of 8 candidates. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   Hmm.  Much better than some but not first in this field.


Responded to MRRA (phone interview):  Summary:   Lives Mount Macedon, 3 years.  Government relations manager.
Involved locally as events manager for the Anzac Day Service, Mount Macedon carols. 

Has attended council meetings for the past year (and at previous address);  participated in the # RCOG program, has an understanding of the roles at council (i.e. councillors v staff).

Biggest concerns for council include council direction, staff, governance, finances, operations, policy, planning, environment, culture.  Community perceptions - major work to be done to restore community trust in council.  Undertaking a capability audit of the organisation, in partnership with community. The role of CEO, and KPIs.  Don't have a community vision.  Advocacy for State and Federal government funding - council needs to say what priority projects are - no plan at the moment.  Better practices and government structures to make council more efficient, and accessible. Need a strategic approach.

Has concerns that the Macedon Ranges area doesn't have a clear identity - need to clarify what we are known for.  Ad hoc approach means we are falling behind.  Want to be known for food and wine, culture.  He is working with community on an open gardens project at Mount Macedon.

Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 - wants appropriate protection for Macedon Ranges; must have a plan, and vision.  We have one go at protecting the environment and assets around Macedon Ranges, and need a strategy to ensure protection. 
Growth - pockets are suitable, some areas are not; must have a plan.  Infrastructure must be in place at Stage 1 release of development.   Equine centre - more work would be needed. Would want to see industry backing for Macedon Ranges, but current backing is for Werribee.

Considers his strengths include being a good communicator and collaborator;  proven track record working with community.  Will question.  New council needs to make be assertive and quick significant decisions. 

This candidate would be strong on governance and having a strategic approach.  Correctly identifies lack of a community vision and and Shire identity as significant issues.  Promotes the need for thorough review of council operations and practices, and fully  recognises the need to restore confidence through engagement and consultation with the community. 

Would MRRA vote for  this candidate?   YES. 





Helen Radnedge First choice
Andrew Twaits Put second.
Mandi Mees
Jamie Byron
MRRA would vote for both of these candidates.
Put one No. 3, the other No. 4.
Russell Mowatt * Put next
Paul Hosking Not this time
J S Amenta NO
John Letchford * DEFINITELY NOT - put last

* Current councillor




WEST WARD 8 Candidates (in ballot paper order)                    West Ward Assessment Summary
Candidates MRRA Assessment

Andrew DODDS

Responded to MRRA (questionnaire)
Summary:   Lives Woodend, less than 12 months.  Casual social worker, theatre interests (actor). 

Biggest issues for council are policy/planning i.e. disregard of Statement of Planning policy No. 8;  governance, especially conflicts of interest; and environment/staff, including the CEO.  More could be done for the environment (e.g. carbon neutral, green waste, solar panels, Landcare, looking after walks). 

There may be a conflict of interest at the heart of the equine centre proposal, and also has concerns about Kyneton airfield re lack of information and incorrect information.

Nominates his strengths as focus, persistence and enthusiasm. 

While values and concerns expressed for those issues commented on above are encouraging, this candidate has lived in the Shire (Woodend) for just under 12 months, and has had little involvement or experience with council or community issues and history.  MRRA's concern is that Andrew would need time to become familiar with numerous important issues - and the new Council needs to hit the ground running.  

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Not at this time. Others have broader knowledge and experience.


Responded to MRRA (questionnaire):
  Summary:  Nurse, lived Woodend 16 years. 

Has read some council documents (council plan, budget, some planning scheme amendments, cycling/walking strategy, community partnerships). 

Clarification made at request of candidate (12/10/16):  Some experience with council through community consultation processes, and associations through domestic violence and Woodend Neighbourhood House and Woodend Volunteer NetworkprojectsParticipated in a brainstorming session discussing the Shire direction on Domestic Violence but was not on the Committee for this.  Was involved in changing governance practices at Kyneton with the strong community response in Kyneton that saw positive changes made to management structure at the hospital."   Participated in the # RCOG program. 

Biggest issues for council are council direction (does not agree with current direction), planning, environment (all three are connected), staff and community partnerships.

Supports state government protection for the whole of Macedon Ranges; has a priority for community and environment
(protect environment); more consistency is needed for decisions about rural areas (need rules, then stick to them); no need for accelerated growth (control growth) and questions Clarkefield development; is not in favour of Villawood at Woodend or the equine centre, needs more information and clarity on Kyneton airfield; opposed to development at Hanging Rock and has concerns about increased commercialisation at Mount Macedon. 

Considers her strengths include listening, questioning, not being easily intimidated, wanting things done properly. 

Has had some involvement and experience with council and community issues, including aspects of administration / organisation.  Recognises improvements in council direction and governance will be priorities for a new council, and has an appreciation of issues confronting the Shire, and values that need consideration and protection.  

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  YES.  Next best after top two in this ward. 

Clarification requested by candidate:

Rosie TORR

Responded to MRRA (phone interview):
  Summary: Lives in Kyneton, 5 years.  Small business. Endorsed Greens' candidate.  

Limited exposure to council issues (primarily processes for Kyneton Children's Park); active in primary school issues (e.g. Education precinct processes). 

Biggest issues for council include the level and quality of communication, particularly digital; environment, and sustainability (as an organisation and addressing climate change);  needs a better way of operating. 

Key concerns include carbon neutrality, improved access and focus on bikes and footpaths, representation of people with low incomes and disabilities, as well as volunteers, renters. More balance and balanced representation is needed on council, which should have more of a 'guardian' role.  Doesn't think the equine centre is a good idea (costs to council but doesn't inject anything back into community).  Not opposed to Kyneton airfield extension.

The candidate raises some important and relevant issues but MRRA concerns about little experience of council issues works against recommending at this time.  Would have been assessed higher if Macedon Ranges already had high quality councillors and a functioning council.  Unfortunately, it doesn't. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  A reluctant NO at this time. 

Donna FISK


Did not respond to MRRA phone call or questionnaire.  Believed to live in Woodend.  

An 'unknown' in terms of local government, community and environmental issues, the candidate's VEC statement suggests little knowledge or experience of council, or involvement in community issues.  The candidate's endorsement of delegation suggests community concerns aren't well understood - most residents would say there is already too much delegation, and not enough accountability by councillors, at council.

It is very difficult to see how 'holding hands and singing "Kumbaya"' either recognises or addresses the many and serious issues confronting the Shire. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  NO. 

Jennifer ANDERSON *


* Current Councillor

Elected 2012

First elected in 2012, Jennifer Anderson has been the stand out councillor of this term. 

Despite consistently being out-voted and dis-respected by the boys' club at council, she has represented the community with courage, dignity and tenacity.  Has brought (been almost a lone voice for) a strategic, policy-based and community-first approach to decision-making.  If there had been 5 of her on council, everything would be different. 

A part-time GP, she is passionate about sustainability, environment and protecting the special qualities of the Shire, and fair and open processes.

She is widely recognised as having been an outstanding councillor in all aspects. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Definitely YES. 




Responded to MRRA by phone:  Summary:   Lives Kyneton district, 12 years total. Works with Elders, Kyneton.

Has long-term links with the Kyneton district, and family involvement in local government.  Considers he has a competent understanding of council operations  Involved with several community groups, including junior football and Kyneton Agricultural Society. 

Considers the biggest issues with council include decision-making processes; the need for investigation of and improved competence in council expertise and operations; review of directors, improved governance and community liaison. 

Also concerned about damaging impacts of development on Kyneton's town character. 

Believes a 'new broom' approach is needed.  Not impressed with the equine centre (strongly questions costs and money already spent), and poor handling of Kyneton airfield issues.

A strong personality.  Understands the need for major change at council, and may introduce a rural perspective, although his position on conserving rural land, legislation to protect the Shire, and environment are not known. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   Yes.



Responded to MRRA (questionnaire):  Summary:  Lives at Newham, over 10 years. Part-time small-farmer, part time customs broker and logistics consultant.  Completed Loddon Mallee community leadership program, and participated in the # RCOG program.  Founder / president of Hanging Rock Action Group.  Has had on-going engagement with council - and State governments and departments - over the past 3 years. 

Regularly attends council meetings, has read council plan, budgets, strategies; takes an interest in planning scheme amendments. 

Biggest issues for council include community engagement, Shire vision, planning, governance and transparency, and moving towards sensible locally-focussed economic development. 

Supports Statement of Planning Policy No. 8 and protection of town boundaries and rural landscapes (must be honoured by future protection).  Environment (the "golden goose") is not given anywhere near the priority it deserves.  Town character and rural landscapes define the Shire's character and need to be the basis of planning for growth; has concerns with processes and growth at Clarkefield.  Value of farm land/longer term opportunities (rather than short term carve-up) need more consideration.  Doesn't support current Rural Living thinking - strategic rather than case-by-case basis needed so houses in rural areas are the exception. 

Concerns with Villawood - conflicts with Woodend Structure Plan.  Need to focus on local business not "blue sky" economic development - make it more about Macedon Ranges and tell the story better; equine centre doesn't fit with community priorities; Kyneton airfield master planning process seems flawed;  Hanging Rock - "don't get me started"!  Mount Macedon commercialization - need balance between opportunity and amenity, not being handled strategically by council. 

Strengths: effective communicator, building networks and relationships, strategic approach to issues. 

Has credentials in leadership, community values and perspectives, and grass roots democracy.  Ticks all our boxes and shapes up as having what it takes to be an outstanding councillor. 

Would MRRA vote for this candidate?  Definitely YES.  Macedon Ranges needs people like this on council.


Roger JUKES **



** Current Councillor 

Elected 2008, re-elected 2012.

Stalwart of the council boys' club, often tag-teamed with another stalwart, John Letchford.  Kyneton councillor, understood to now be living in Gisborne.

Here's what MRRA said about him in 2012, when only six candidates nominated for West ward:

"Blitzed the field in 2008, running on the Kyneton indoor pool issue.  An unspectacular councillor, and pro-development (particularly economic development) advocate, who in four years hasn't really left an outstanding legacy. Needs to lift his game and keep his eyes on the job. Room for a lot of improvement; may perform better in higher class company.   Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   A reluctant Yes, because some of the rest are much worse."

As everyone is now painfully aware, the council elected in 2012 didn't provide 'higher class company', and saw Cr. Jukes' performance go from mediocre to where it is today.  MRRA's many concerns with this candidate include:

* His refusal to support community consultation before approving a development plan for a 341 lot subdivision at Kyneton last December, saying those who wanted to know about it, would know about it.

* Perceived conflicts of interest arising from his personal relationship with Council's Economic Development Manager.

* His claim in his 2016 candidate statement that his achievements include "assistance with more planning applications than I can count"  and "solid ethics drive my decision-making", which appears contradictory.
* Macedon Ranges' Annual Reports, which show (at related party transactions) that council has over recent years purchased services, identified as arm's-length transactions, totalling over $204,000 from Cr. Jukes' business  (i.e. Bridgestone Tyres) as follows:

$47,103 in 2014/15
$72,173 in 2013/14
$34,593 in 2012/13
$50,318 in 2011/12

This candidate has robustly supported (among other things) the Hanging Rock development, the RV black water dump site (now de facto caravan park) at Kyneton mineral springs, the equine centre money pit, the current Kyneton airfield fiasco, the rural living carve up, and houses all across the rural landscape - and apparently, he's proud of it.

MRRA gave him a second chance in 2012, and he blew it.  For our money, what he says and does has contributed to what's wrong with this Shire.  We think he's insincere, and lacks empathy for community, democratic representation and proper process. 

 Would MRRA vote for this candidate?   NEVER.  EVER.   Put him last, where he belongs (number 8).





Jennifer Anderson * No. 1. 
Luke Spielvogel No. 2.
Janet Pearce Put No. 3.
Ron Rutledge Put next.
Rosie Torr Not this time
Andrew Dodds Not this time.
Donna Fisk NO
Roger Jukes * DEFINITELY NOT.  Put last, No. 8.

* Current councillor




Political comment on this website relating to elections is authorized by Louise Whitefield, Macedon Ranges Residents' Association Inc., 2 Dalrymple Road, Gisborne, 3437.