Rocky’s accidental mayor poised to take the reins – for now

After 10 days of uncertainty, the Rockhampton region could soon have a new mayor, with Chris Hooper officially being offered the role by Electoral Commission Queensland (ECQ).

Nov 19, 2020, updated Nov 19, 2020
Chris Hooper received a vacancy notice from the electoral commission on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: ABC)

Chris Hooper received a vacancy notice from the electoral commission on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo: ABC)

It follows the resignation of former mayor Margaret Strelow earlier this month after being found guilty of misconduct by the Councillor Conduct Tribunal.

Hooper has accepted the role, returned the paperwork to the ECQ and will meet with the council’s chief executive, Evan Pardon, on Thursday morning.

The council will then meet on Tuesday to take the next steps.

“I teared up outside before … I thought about my mother,” Hooper said.

“My mother died when I was 10; she’s had a big influence on my life but she hasn’t been here.

“This is for her, basically.”

A change to the Local Government Act in June means the role of mayor goes to the election runner-up, although the State Government has vowed to amend the law, which would trigger a by-election.

However, the ECQ said the law must be followed until there were any such changes.

Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Steven Miles said there were still steps to be undertaken in order for Hooper to be appointed mayor.

“Mr Hooper should feel free to run for the mayoral position when a by-election is called,” Miles said.

Hooper said the process to becoming mayor was not straightforward and he would be meeting with council next Tuesday.

“I might get two days as mayor or something,” he laughed.

Level of support

Hooper said he was surprised at the amount of support he had received.

“There’s people coming in here that I never really got on with, but they said this is wrong, that [the Government] can’t change the law when it suits them.”

Others wanted to see a shake-up, he added.

“I’m the person that’s got different ideas and they’re not all that bad,” Hooper said.

The man nicknamed “Pineapple” because of the bushy head of hair he sported as a teenager, has plans.

He wants to see Rockhampton’s CBD, which is filled with empty spaces, come to life.

“In Newcastle, the artists got together and went and saw the owners of the shops and said, ‘Hey, if you let us in here at minimal rent, as soon as you get a tenant, we will move out if you get a better price’.

“I reckon all those vacant shops down there, cut their rent and let people use the shop while they can, and if they’re a good tenant later on, put their rent up.

“Put life into the street.”

Hooper, who won just over 30 per cent of the vote at this year’s council election, said during his campaign that he would take only $1 in pay.

He has been advised otherwise and will take the mayoral pay to give to charity.

“I’m going to give it away to people that don’t get funding from the normal people.”

He admitted the past 10 days had been a whirlwind.

“The Canadian Broadcast Commission, they’re interviewing me at 2 o’clock tomorrow morning and I’ve had BBC too, interview me.”

– ABC / Inga Stunzner

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