Businessman icon with question mark on his head
Businessman icon with question mark on his head

Familiar face joins Rocky mayoral race

A perennial candidate for local government elections over the past decade, Leyland Barnett has joined a crowded field vying to be the Rockhampton region’s next mayor.

The prominent road safety campaigner was born in Rockhampton and has happily lived in the region his whole life with his wife of 37 years.

He’s worked in a “multitude of industries” including the rural and manufacturing sectors, as well as office administration, property development and self-employed running his own driving school for the best part of two decades.

Leyland Barnett often appears in the media sharing road safety messages.
Leyland Barnett often appears in the media sharing road safety messages.

Mr Barnett has previously campaigned to become a councillor in Rockhampton Regional Council in the 2012 and 2016 elections.

In 2016, he ran for Division 5 and attracted 427 votes with 6.23 per cent of the vote and in 2012 in Division 8, accrued 1,420 votes with 25.92 per cent of the votes.

When he spoke with the Morning Bulletin about the possibility of running for mayor last month, Mr Barnett said he hadn’t given it much thought but after self-funding his past two campaigns, he would only consider running again if he could secure business sponsorship.

Following his entry into the election race on Friday, he explained the change of heart saying he was “very concerned with Rocky's future” and that we needed “to get some direction and a path to follow”.

Driving instructor Leyland Barnett says better driver education could reduce the road toll. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Driving instructor Leyland Barnett says better driver education could reduce the road toll. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

“I’m going to offer strong leadership and I’m not going to back down for our region. I’ve been fighting for it for over 10 years now,” Mr Barnett said.

“I’m prepared to lobby both sides of politics to get things done and happening in our region. “I’ve got integrity, honesty, there’s nothing anyone can bring up on me, and everyone would get a fair go.”

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An opponent of the South Rockhampton levee bank project for the past 15 years, he believed the debacle where its cost blew out from $60 million to an estimated $189 million was one of the reasons why he needed to intervene to ensure the money was spent elsewhere where it was truly needed.

Two other local issues which had lit a fire under him were the state of the Quay St pavers and RRC’s rates rising faster than the Consumer Price Index while locals struggled through the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I’ve done the hard yards and know what it’s like to battle and struggle,” Mr Barnett said.

“I know when Lea Taylor was mayor during ‘the recession we had to have’, he actually froze the rates for 12 months and that saved us from losing our house.

“One of my plans if I did get in was to freeze the rates for 12 months.”

Along with redirecting the money set aside for the levee project, Mr Barnett intended to pay for the rate freeze by finding savings within council’s budget.

Given that the mayor only had one vote like everyone else sitting at the council table, Mr Barnett said he had the necessary lobbying skills to convince other councillors to get on board with the necessary projects needed to take Rockhampton forward.

Central to his plan to move the city forward was to attract industry to the region.

By offering incentives for large industry to set up shop locally, he said it would drive long term employment and by extension help small businesses grow and prosper, going on to employ more workers.

He wanted to offer greater support to those living in the outer Rockhampton region by repairing deteriorating rural roads and reopening the Laurel Bank waste facility at Alton Downs.

With Mr Barnett and Councillor Shane Latcham adding their names to contest the January 23 by-election on Friday, 13 names were expected to be read out at Monday’s ECQ ballot draw.