Approximately 45 members and key stakeholders of the Sunshine Coast Business Council (SCBC) had the opportunity to hear from mayoral candidates for both the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Councils at the advocacy group’s forum hosted at Youi headquarters in Sippy Downs last Thursday.

SCBC Chair Sandy Zubrinich facilitated the panel discussion including eight of the ten candidates, holding them to account to better understand both their planned approach to lead and progress the region over the next four years and beyond, as well as the skills and credibility they will bring to the role should they be successful.

Ms Zubrinich said both councils faced challenges in regard to creating diverse housing options to accommodate the inevitable population growth and to address other pressing issues like transport and infrastructure.

“In December 2023, SCBC asked voters to think about, what qualities and capabilities they wanted to see in their new mayor as they are preparing to vote on 16 March at the local council elections and test each candidate’s experience and suitability to fulfil the role against their expectations,” said Ms Zubrinich.

“At the Business Council, we believe both new mayors need to be leaders committed to effective delivery of services, strategies to collaboratively tackle the issues we face as a broader region — and, most importantly, they need to listen to the community and have the ability to garner community support to implement those strategies.

“Our members further outlined the qualities and style of leadership they would be assessing candidates against, which included the ability to lead and listen; communicate a vision, strategies, ideas and benefits; bring communities together; be strong advocates for the region with other levels of government; and to work hand-in-hand with the business community to advocate for infrastructure investment and funding.

“Members reminded candidates that creating investor certainty and an environment where businesses can thrive was critical for the region’s economic growth, and at the local government level this would be helped by improving efficiency in planning processes, resulting in quicker and more transparent planning decisions. 

“These messages have consistently been raised by both our membership base and the broader business community. The audience made it clear, they want to see a more effective and collaborative leadership approach, and also a big shift in the internal culture of both organisations. 

“What was really encouraging was to see all candidates agree that greater collaboration was not only necessary across all levels of government to ensure the region was better represented, but also between the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Councils. This was certainly identified as a priority.

“There appeared common acceptance of the need to unlock housing, secure investment for Heavy Rail by working more collaboratively with State and Federal governments, growing economic opportunities while protecting the liveability of the region.”

With eight of the ten candidates in the upcoming Noosa and Sunshine Coast Council elections present, the event was a critical opportunity for local business leaders to engage with the candidates and understand their approach.

Candidates were asked to share what they believed their biggest strengths were to bring to the position of mayor and the SCBC has summarised these below.

For Sunshine Coast Council

Ashley Robison highlighted experience as a board member and general manager, with a history of effectively managing financial resources and fostering teamwork. Mr Robinson is known for his listening skills and ability to unite teams towards a common objective.

Jason O’Pray emphasised 12 years of experience as a councillor, deep knowledge of the $21 billion Sunshine Coast economy and strong relationships within the council, that he believes make him an ideal candidate for the position of mayor.

Melinda ‘Min’ Swan said she brings a strong business background, including experience as a business owner and strategic leader. Ms Swan highlighted a passion for the community, driving economic development and creative problem-solving.

Rosanna Natoli reinforced her skills in communication and team facilitation, leveraging three decades of journalism experience to distil complex issues, ensure transparency and foster open, accountable leadership in local governance, alongside a strong focus on economic development and community engagement.

Wayne Parcell highlighted being a leader recognised for his exceptional contributions to federal government policy and operations as well as working internationally in the private sector. Mr Parcell said his experience in taxation, security, defence and immigration equips him with a unique perspective on outcomes management, handling significant budgets and complex international issues.

For Noosa Shire Council

Frank Wilkie was unable to attend the forum due to a Noosa Shire Council Ordinary Meeting but provided SCBC with details of his experience in local government, supporting business growth and citing having worked in management within Queensland’s island resorts and private sector businesses. Mr Wilkie said he appreciates the importance of businesses in the community’s social and economic fabric.

Ingrid Jackson emphasised skill in responding to diverse needs and strengthening governance throughout her career as a management consultant and leadership roles in Noosa and Sydney resorts. Ms Jackson said her experience demonstrates her ability to adapt and improve processes to enhance organisational governance.

John Morrall said he brings 45 years of business experience and a focus on leadership and financial acumen. Mr Morall emphasised his ability to rally teams and his expertise in forecasting, budgeting and financial analysis to achieve organisational goals and navigate financial challenges.

Nick Hluszko said, as a CEO with international experience and equipped with a master’s degree in business administration, he pledges to manage the council efficiently, minimising rates and levies and fostering a united community where all sector concerns are addressed.

For more information about the event and to access handouts summarising the candidates’ platforms and answers to questions posed to each candidate by the SCBC, please visit