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Environmental activist 'Pineapple' in line for Australia city's mayor thanks to legal quirk

Chris 'Pineapple' Hooper is legally first in line to automatically become the mayor of Rockhampton, Australia, but he's prepared to take his rivals on at the ballot box if he must.

Rockhampton, Australia. Source: istock.com

The environmental activist sent shockwaves through Queensland's political establishment on Tuesday after mayor Margaret Strelow's resignation over misconduct.

As the only runner-up in the March mayoral election, Hooper is in line for the city's top job despite only winning about 30 per cent of the vote.

He says he has been in talks with council's chief executive Evan Pardon about taking over in Australia's beef capital.

"I'm the next one off the block to be mayor - I could be mayor in a couple of days if they do it properly," Hooper told AAP today.

"They might try to stretch it out a bit, play a bit of a trick there somehow or other."

The Queensland government said it will change state laws to call a by-election in Rockhampton, less than six months after Labor brought in the current laws.

Pardon said council would continue as normal with acting mayor Neil Fisher in charge.

"This is obviously a new situation so it will take time to work through the next steps," Pardon said in a statement.

Hooper isn't deterred by the government's plans to stop his succession.

He said local Labor MP Brittany Lauga pressured him not to run in a by-election, but he's received widespread support including a call from Liberal National Party senator Matt Canavan, who was "as nice as pie, but he might have been playing games".

"Yeah it's coming from all angles, not just from people that actually like me," Hooper said.

"It's not about me, it's about the principle of what they're doing. They could do it to anyone."

He said if it does come down to a by-election he will definitely throw his hat in the ring again, which he says costs only $250.

"Yeah, I'm gonna run for sure," Hooper said.

"It might end up being a bit of a bluff tactic, because they might stop and think 'oh he's gonna run again."

Hooper pledged to lead a collaborative, non-partisan administration focusing on underemployment and dealing with climate change.

Griffith University political scientist Paul Williams can see Hooper winning a by-election.

"He is a local character. There's a 'give him a fair go' attitude," Williams told AAP.

"Could you imagine him standing up against a potentially colourless candidate from one of the major parties."

University of Queensland electoral law expert Graeme Orr said states had power to do whatever they want with council elections and bring in retroactive laws.

"The principle is avoid retrospectivity, unless you have to use it to avoid a significant present problem," Orr said.

It would be interesting to see if the government scrapped the law or just tweaked it so there could be a Rockhampton by-election, he said.

"It's clearly a perverse state of affairs, you'd expect a by-election, even more so early in the term," Orr said.

"Now, a few months later after its first test post-election, the government is undoing the rule."