Teresa Harding will run for mayor of Ipswich in next year's council election.
Teresa Harding will run for mayor of Ipswich in next year's council election. Inga Williams

Staunch Liberal's plan to sit in the mayor's chair

THE THIRD person to throw their hat into the ring to become Ipswich's next mayor says she will commission a full forensic audit into council on her first day in office if elected.

Teresa Harding has set out a 100-day 'fresh start plan' which she will implement if she is voted in to the hot seat at the council election in March.

The 50-year-old, who was an LNP candidate for the seat of Blair in the 2013 and 2016 federal elections, stressed the need for a "fresh set of eyes" to lead Ipswich forward out of administration.

She follows dismissed councillor David Martin and long-time candidate Gary Duffy in announcing her stand for the top job.

"I think we shouldn't be looking at anyone associated with the former council in any way and I know as a local we're in an era where our proud community has been tainted by corruption," Ms Harding said.

"I think the people of Ipswich have been through enough. I want us to be open and transparent.

"I think it's really important the community are engaged. I think they feel as though they've been duped. I certainly do. It's really embarrassing the press (Ipswich) has been getting in the past two years."

Although she ran for the LNP twice in the past six years, Ms Harding acknowledged "there was no place for politics" at a council level.

"I think people know my politics. I'm not hiding it," she said.

"I like to think I've got a few good contacts that I can call on and I know how the system works, however I detest the thought of politics at the local level."

The Raceview resident's policies include improving access to public information, a need for 'reliable infrastructure' across the city, increasing council's presence on the ground to improve engagement with the community, better support for not-for-profit groups and establishing a mining and waste industry roundtable.

As part of her push for transparency Ms Harding wants all council meeting minutes to record how councillors vote, awarded contracts and procurements over $10,000 to be published, publicly released monthly reports detailing expenses for councillors, invite the Queensland Ombudsman to set up an office in Ipswich and invite the Crime and Corruption Commission to start a whistle-blower scheme.

"I can see how it's been unfolding and I quote (Local Government) Minister (Stirling) Hinchliffe when he spoke of the council having a 'deep, dark, deal-making culture'," she said.

"I appreciate the administrator and the CEO are doing a great job but we actually don't know what's there. We don't know what's hidden there. I want to do a full forensic audit and I think it's really important for the people of Ipswich that we published those findings to help restore trust and accountability. It's going to take some time to do this.

"I haven't made any multi-million dollar promises because I don't know what lies beneath. I'd rather lose than make promises I can't deliver."

The mother of three has lived in Ipswich since 2006 and currently works in the IT field for the State Government, while previously serving in the Army and running a small business.

She raised three children locally with husband Steven, who has served 30 years in the Royal Australian Air Force.

With the state election set for October next year, Ms Harding knows the importance of building strong relationship with other levels of government.

"I want us to be prepared," she said.

"When you look at all the money in government... local government only gets about four per cent. Local governments can't do anything big without state and federal partnerships.

"A big part of why I'm running is we are starving here in Ipswich for infrastructure, it feels like we are the forgotten part of the south east.

"I don't know if it's because we always vote one way and they forget about us. I think my experience in the state and federal governments and knowing how business works... I've got that skillset and that passion, I know how things work to get business cases up to get some serious infrastructure back into Ipswich."

In her current role with the State Government, Ms Harding works across different departments, with councils, other state governments and the Federal Government.

Prior to this, she led the Strike Reconnaissance Systems Program Office in the Department of Defence where she was responsible for the all the maintenance and later disposal of the F-111 fighter jet.

In this role Teresa had 100 military and civilian direct staff and over 950 contractors reporting to her, an annual budget of $150 million and managed a $2.5 billion asset portfolio.



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