Moving forward I believe the most effective way for greater Central Queensland to be heard, and negotiate a ‘fair go’ that will deliver real results for our region, will be through the collective voice of a unified combined Regional Organisation of Councils.
Prior to the Federal Election ten Councils agreed in principle to enter into a formal alliance with a view to becoming a formidable and powerful lobby group to put forward a united voice for the greater Central Queensland Region. It is expected that the formal signing of an agreement will take place tentatively in July.
The combined Councils are likely to include Gladstone Regional Council, Banana Regional Council, Central Highlands Regional Council, Isaac Regional Council, Mackay Regional Council, Rockhampton Regional Council, Whitsunday Regional Council, Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council, North Burnett Regional Council and Livingstone Shire Council.
It is certainly time for the Local Governments of Central Queensland to stand up and collectively take a united position in relation to the need for both State and Federal Governments to make substantially greater levels of investment in key major enabling infrastructure. United, this alliance of Councils will be able to deliver that message.
The historical problem regional Queensland has faced at both a State and Federal level is the greater voting power and number of parliamentary seats in the major southern population centres control.
There was a brief burst of optimism when the Turnbull Government announced its policy initiative for developing Northern Australia, a significant percentage of which comprises the greater Central Queensland and Whitsunday areas. Unfortunately to date that policy initiative has not met the high expectations or delivered the real outcomes and investment our regions sorely need.
Last year it was suggested that $1 billion dollars of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility/Fund (NAIF) be made available annually over a five year period as direct grants to Local Governments across Northern Australia for major enabling infrastructure to facilitate growth and new industry development in the regions.
This is the level of direct funding that would make the transformational difference to deliver the enabling infrastructure and job creation that Northern Australia desperately needs to grow and fully develop. Given the vast wealth our region pours into the Federal and State coffers, it is also something that our recently re-elected Federal representatives now certainly have a mandate to push hard to deliver for our region.
Looking to the future it is also vital that pro-active policies and strategies are put in place now to diversify, grow and build resilience in the regional economy. As the projected long-term global reliance on thermal coal for power generation decreases over time, these strategies will be critical for our long-term economic sustainability.
There is a real opportunity for Local, State and Federal Governments to collectively play a leadership role by partnering in this process and working together to ensure our regions are well positioned to continue to grow and prosper into the future.