Western Alliance to make local government history

Councils band together for stronger voice in election lead-up

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Local government in the west of the state has formed itself into a powerful new alliance, which will be formalised in Longreach next week.

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Remote Area Planning and Development Board CEO David Arnold says the new council alliance will attract greater political recognition for needs across the region. Pictures supplied.

Remote Area Planning and Development Board CEO David Arnold says the new council alliance will attract greater political recognition for needs across the region. Pictures supplied.

Local government in the west of the state has formed itself into a powerful new alliance, which will be formalised in Longreach next week.

The inaugural assembly of the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils will bring together mayors representing 60 per cent of Queensland's land mass in a historic move.

There will be representation from 21 shires from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the New South Wales border, an area that generates $9.35 billion of the state's gross product from 1.3 per cent of its population.

This contribution, coming from resources, agriculture, fishing and tourism, is 2.2 times per capita above the Queensland average.

Speaking about the motivation for the new western voice, Remote Area Planning and Development Board CEO David Arnold said it was about recognising the issues, due to isolation, that were common to each of the councils and making use of that to advance their arguments more strongly.

"It's the first time ever there's been such large focused attention on western Queensland issues, outside of the Local Government Association of Queensland," he said.

"The three representative bodies advocated as one for the road funding announcements that were made, and it was the alliance that asked the state government to develop a western protocol around the movement of government staff in and out of the region during the COVID lockdown.

"It evolved organically, really - we were working on some things and realised they affected us all."

Mr Arnold said there was no intention for the WQAC to be another legal entity.

"It's not a bureaucratic overlay, nor a challenge to the LGAQ - it's a lean and mean agile alliance that can address issues common to all of us," he said.

Strategic road funding is one area where western shires have a common purpose and Bulloo Shire mayor John 'Tractor' Ferguson, pictured at the flooded Warri Gate Road, will be hoping the united approach will benefit the economy in Queensland's far south west.

Strategic road funding is one area where western shires have a common purpose and Bulloo Shire mayor John 'Tractor' Ferguson, pictured at the flooded Warri Gate Road, will be hoping the united approach will benefit the economy in Queensland's far south west.

The three representative bodies that will unite through the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils are the North West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils, RAPAD, and the South West Local Government Association.

Shires to the north and east of Flinders, Barcaldine, Maranoa and Balonne, such as Croydon, Charters Towers, Central Highlands, Western Downs and Goondiwindi, are not included.

The two-day program set down for July 27-28 will see a Memorandum of Understanding signed plus long term priorities for western Queensland developed, to form the basis of an October 2020 state election platform.

The MoU will define the group's boundaries and aims.

As well as state Ministers for Local Government, Stirling Hinchliffe, and Regional Development, Glenn Butcher, and local MPs Robbie Katter, Lachlan Millar and Ann Leahy, federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will attend, along with assistant Freight Transport Minister Scott Buchholz and Senator James McGrath.

In keeping with COVID-19 distancing protocols, attendance has been capped at 85.

Mr Arnold said they hadn't invited debate in the traditional manner during the assembly but would be asking questions of the politicians while they had them available.

RAPAD chairman Tony Rayner said he and his colleagues were ready to hit the campaign trail to ensure effort and investment was focused where it was needed most, during the critical COVID recovery phase.

Seconding that, NWQROC chairman Jack Bawden said they had a strong plan and committed people behind it.

"We'll be stepping up to have our voices heard and making sure voters across Queensland know what their vote can mean for their mates out west who deliver so much for them."

South West Local Government Association chairwoman Samantha O'Toole said western Queensland punched well above its weight in terms of its contribution to the state economy and the 21 councils were ready to make sure that continued.

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