Challengers Michael Burgess, Chris Thompson and Don Innes (on screen) all participated vigorously at the Sunshine Coast Daily’s last election forum of the 2020 local government campaign.
Challengers Michael Burgess, Chris Thompson and Don Innes (on screen) all participated vigorously at the Sunshine Coast Daily’s last election forum of the 2020 local government campaign.

Mayor leaves floor to challengers as runway issue bites

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THE final Sunshine Coast Daily "You Decide" forum ahead of local government elections on March 28 went ahead absent a mayor with Cr Mark Jamieson a no-show for the live-streamed event.

Cr Jamieson said he instead spent Wednesday evening at the Nambour late-night polling centre.

Due to coronavirus containment measures, the forum was held without an audience in the room and candidate Don Innes connected via video due to a minor illness.

The three contenders found common ground on further flood plain development north of the Maroochy River, the need for greater transparency and paid parking.

It was a "no" to paid parking and flood-plain housing estates and a "yes" to greater transparency.

WATCH THE REPLAY: MAYORAL CANDIDATES VOW CBD REVIEWS

But in the absence of Cr Jamieson, Mr Innes switched his attack to Chris Thompson who has rapidly emerged as the candidate most likely to beat the incumbent.

After Mr Thompson declared himself a strident supporter of keeping the existing runway open only to then say, "if it's safe to do so", Mr Innes pounced.

He praised the former deputy mayor's commitment to "open book accounting" of all major council projects but then questioned the caveat.

"He (Mr Thompson) says 'if it's safe to do so'," Mr Innes said.

"I don't buy into that, not for a moment.

"That's a cop out.

"I think that's already setting it up for that second runway to be scrapped.

"I don't reckon he's fair dinkum.

"CASA has already come out and refuted that there are safety issues about that second runway."

Mayoral candidates Michael Burgess and Chris Thompson speak at a Sunshine Coast Daily election forum.
Mayoral candidates Michael Burgess and Chris Thompson speak at a Sunshine Coast Daily election forum. Stuart Cumming

Mr Thompson responded he must have missed the memo from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and that he had received conflicting views from civil aviation operators and the airport management.

"I'm almost 100 per cent certain it is safe," he said.

"We'll get on with keeping it."

Michael Burgess, the third candidate participating, tossed numbers around like confetti, largely without attribution.

Mr Thompson holds a Bachelor of Business from University of the Sunshine Coast and a Masters' from University of Queensland and presented as the most credentialed attending the forum.

But the mayor's absence robbed voters of the opportunity to fully assess who they thought best able to chart the Sunshine Coast's course through what Mr Thompson described as "challenging times".

As the council's chairman of finance during the Global Financial Crisis, water reforms and the amalgamation and de-amalgamation with Noosa, he argued that he had the credentials.