Marion and I wish each and everyone one of you a very happy, safe and blessed Christmas. We look forward to 2017 and hope it brings prosperity and good health for all.
In the 9 months since the local government elections, as your Mayor I have been quietly getting on with putting in place Council’s response to the most important issues raised during the campaign – roads and preservation of the road levy, economic development and ethical, responsible and approachable management. Part of my response to the issues raised was to appoint councillors to portfolios that they could add most value to and deliver the best value back to you as ratepayers and residents.
It has been a very rewarding 9 months, building on the great relationships I hold with State and Federal representatives to continue to lobby for our needs in the South Burnett. The great relationships we hold with our Federal and State Government counterparties was evident as government quickly joined in with the community as we rallied to respond to the frightful Swickers fire. Council’s Local Disaster Management Team together with Swickers own very effective Disaster Management Plan receives my highest commendation.
Many of you know my preference for “talking”, and that supports my preferred approach in managing issues that concern you. It is important to me as a person, and also as the Mayor, that you feel listened to and your concerns dealt with respectfully. Mid 2016 I initiated with our Councillors several “Listening Tours” around the region. I am grateful for the time and dedication all your Councillors contributed to this initiative. The feedback confirms they were very successful and we will be repeating them again around mid 2017. The tours were part of our commitment to reduce the number of complaints, particularly with roads, by sitting down to talk through all the issues and equally as important, keeping ratepayers updated with all of Council’s activities.
The Councillors I chose to head up the Portfolio areas has seen each one of them grow into their roles and responsibilities admirably. To highlight one of their many achievements here, I chose Cr Gavin Jones to lead the Roads and Infrastructure Portfolio. He and I launched the need for an audit to review the operational efficiencies relative to road works. The audit is now complete and will be released to Council during January 2017. At the first Budget Meeting of the new Council, I encouraged that we reprioritise road capital expenditure so that large one off capital works in towns be deferred for a couple of years to reinvest this money into rural roads. Division 3 and 4 Councillors Danita Potter and Terry Fleischfresser gave up a large chunk of capital money for their town area to invest in rural roads. That decision, together with the findings in the external audit, will deliver many positive impacts on the rural road network.
To maintain the momentum in 2017, I’ve been working with the CEO and Councillors to undertake a range of other initiatives. Among them is improving relationships with developers in new development applications; updating the forward economic development strategy and generally looking at how Council can achieve best practice and drive efficiencies across the entire organisation. All these initiatives help drive economic development, secure and stablise local jobs and businesses and keep rates affordable.
Santa delivered some good news to close out 2016 and just a few weeks ago we were notified of four (4) new sites as part of the Mobile Black Spot Funding Program to improve
across the South Burnett. Another win for creating more opportunities for economic development and improving the liveability of our region.
One of my election commitments was greater recognition and support for agriculture. It is well on track! An Agricultural sub-committee has been launched and water for agricultural irrigation is now a part of our economic platform. Additional to that, water has now been adopted by the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils as a project that strengthen the South Burnett’s case.
Council recognises that the National
Regulations are both a limitation for existing businesses, as well as potential new business that need a safe road system that supports a range of configurations to have access to our businesses in the towns of the South Burnett. My aim is to secure existing businesses and attract strong and diverse industries that can take up any gaps created by the exiting of any of our current large employers. For example, the impacts the South Burnett would experience if the pressure to close coal fired power stations came sooner rather than later will be enormous. I have taken this up as one my main priorities to work with all levels of government in a proactive and planned way so we are not caught off guard. During the balance of this term we want to be well advanced with a new streetscape plan for Kingaroy CBD and new footpathing for Murgon.
During this last nine (9) months we’ve completed negotiations for relocation of the Blackbutt Hall to make way for a new Supermarket; and the reports coming from the management of the Lady Bjelke-Petersen Community Hospital confirms that Council’s support is delivering improved medical services and local jobs. The completion of 2 of our major infrastructure projects, the Kingaroy Waste Water Treatment Plant and Gordonbrook Water Treatment Plant will deliver improvements for our region. It was very rewarding for Council to receive two (2) State awards at the recent Institute of Public Works Engineering Excellence Awards of these works.
I’ve invested considerable effort in ensuring that the foundations for this four-year term are now set and I am pleased there is a clear strategy to guide our priorities in 2017. There is much to deliver and I am pleased to be able to serve our region with energy and passion to ensure our future always is positive and stronger.
I’m honoured to serve as your Mayor. I want to thank my fellow Councillors, who have adapted so well to their responsibilities, and all staff for their dedication to our safe, liveable and beautiful South Burnett.