from the Mayoral Debate..

Two years ago – with the separation of Livingstone Shire We also took back responsibility for promoting our region and for encouraging business growth and for economic development in conjunction with other levels of government.
This had been the province of Capricorn Enterprise for six years.

In the last two years (albeit very interrupted years thanks to dramalgamation and Marcia) We have delivered comprehensive marketing and promotional material, begun to change the face of our inner city area, initiated several major community events and festivals, and developed a workable and measurable plan for a smart digital future.
We have begun real practical engagement with the Singapore government that will lead to produce going directly from Rockhampton into Singapore and from there to other parts of Southeast Asia.
We have put Rockhampton region back on the map as far as resource companies and mining companies are concerned. One of the initiatives which had fallen by the way side in the first six years of amalgamation is it any understanding of the water projects on the Fitzroy. Projects which should have been the highest priority for our region had been left to the side largely ignored.

Similarly for all of the work which had been done eight or nine years ago to quantify agricultural opportunities. This project has been reborn as Growing Central Queensland – and is once again championed by all three levels of government.
I will unashamedly claim the credit for reviving this project.
And early in the term we sorted through a tangled planning mess that had been left in the Gracemere industrial area. We have invested in the water pipes and roads that are needed to let new industries grow in this area.
We have delivered a new lite planning scheme which in conjunction with our infrastructure charges concession has made development easier than it’s ever been in our region for new businesses.

One of the things that has given me cause for great satisfaction is that there has been a little talk this election of roads and water and sewerage problems.

$7.5 and 8 million rural roads
$900,000 on rural waste services

That’s not to say they don’t exist (and obviously there is more we need to do ) but I think it’s a recognition that the ten year plans and programmes I put in place in Rockhampton City in previous terms have achieved the overall improvement in the city’s essential networks. And that we are now investing serious dollars to bring Gracemere and Mount Morgan up to a similar standard.
Water Sewerage roads are the core services a local government needs to provide and to provide well.
This term we have also solved a problem which has plagued the region for decades and which was looming as a massive expense on the near horizon.
The innovative piggyback system at the lakes Creek landfill will allow us to stay on that site for least another 20 years and to do so economically and sustainably.
And don’t forget that we have doubled our annual stormwaterexpenditure to improve our undersized drainage network. We now have an 8 year plan in place which will see the problems either resolved or dramatically diminished.
And we have begun actually paying off our debt after an appalling blowout in debt during the first term after amalgamation.

We have reinforced our commitment to the local economy by increasing Council’s traditional 5% ‘local benefit’ weighting to 12% This has seen council spend $63 million in the last 12 months in the local economy. And a further $5.4 million spent in our neighbouring shires.

We all know that the economy in central Queensland has suffered horrendously from the mining downturn. It doesn’t give us any comfort to know that Mackay and Gladstone and Emerald have taken much harder hits than we have.
Things are tough for business and that flows on to jobs.
And we should not underestimate the lingering impacts of Marcia.
I’m immensely proud of the job that we all did after the cyclone hit.
I stand in awe of the army of flouro including councils own staff who worked long hours in unbearable heat to get us back on our feet again. As leader I get the blame for many things I didn’t do then occasionally I can claim some credit for the things thatCouncil did particularly well. And the clean up after Marcia was one of those.
Going forward I commit to you to do the things that are the bread-and-butter of local government well.
I will continue to progressively improve your water , Sewer stormwater and road networks.
I commit to continuing to reduce debt- not to increase it.
I commit to keeping the rates rises as low as I possibly can.

I commit to delivering a progressive and effective economic development program in conjunction with local businesses and other levels of government.
We have just begun to rebuild after deamalgamation and Marcia Just begun to pay off debt Just begun to look forward over the horizon and see the amazing opportunities that are ahead of us.I’m asking for one more term to consolidate what we have begun.image

Heritage Village

There have been a string of text messages about the cuts at the Heritage Village in 2013.
The staff cuts there were one of the things we did to turn the budget around after deamalgamation.
Many of you will remember the ‘your budget your choice’ meetings prior to the 2013 budget.
I knew in preparing that budget – that we had to do some tough things and recognised that Council didn’t have the right to make those decisions alone.
The consultation process that we developed was thorough and extensive.
We conducted 16 different meetings with over 600 people in all. (There was an option for online or paper copy participation in the survey too.)
Each meeting was made up of invited representatives from sporting or social clubs or various groups across the region. As an example – a Rotary club would get a letter asking them to send three representatives to this meeting. (From a statisticians point of view we ended up with the right mix of people and enough people to represent the community with a 95% degree of confidence in the result .)
At the meetings both senior staff and myself walked the attendees through the financial data and Treasury assessments of our future.
And then a number of cost cutting options were presented looking at options to save money and to get the budget back in shape. Attendees had small electronic voting devices and each made their own choice.
There were some clear messages.
(Which were published in the media and on our website at the time.)
For example, the zoo was not to be touched.
Another was that we were prepared to let mowing in some less used parks ‘slide out’ a little bit longer between mowings. We agreed as a community not to heat the Southside pool quite as high as it had been.

And 50% of people were prepared to have the Heritage Village completely run by an external community group. A further 28% said they could be persuaded to that option. This would have taken $735,000 from Councils budget. In the end this option didn’t eventuate (we couldn’t find a group willing to take on the Village) and so Council reduced our permanent staff at the Heritage Village from 7.6 staff to 3 full time and two part time staff (one at 29 hrs and the other at 30 hrs) .

So the text messages are right- yes we have cut staff and things are not the quite same as they used to be.
I’ve had to do some tough things this term and no doubt I will pay for that at the ballot box to some extent. But I can’t promise to undo these things just to win your vote now. The budget is not a magic pudding.

As you will recall when I was reelected in 2012 I found a dysfunctional Council, a bitterly divided community, and the promise of a vote on deamalgamation already made by the new Newman government.
Debt had risen in the four years I was out of office from $84 million-$220 million (and there were a couple of big items that had been ordered by the previous Council but not yet paid for too.)
The eventual deamalgamation only compounded our budget woes.
We (RRC) are now paying $10 million a year to service our share of the extra debt that was run up in those four years.

A flood and a cyclone haven’t helped either.

Putting all those challenges together is why I am so excited about the results we have achieved and where we are at the moment.
We now have cohesive Council, a solid budget surplus, Debt going down and all of the opportunity in the world to set a new direction for our Region. Even Queensland Treasury Corporation are singing our praises.

I am energised and enthusiastic about our opportunities and I’m asking for your support to help create our future.

QTC report is in… And it is good news

16 January 2015 QTC delivers strong credit review for Rockhampton Regional Council Rockhampton Regional Council has come through de-amalgamation with a stronger financial position than it had going in. The great news was recently delivered in … [Continue reading]

Looking forward- not back.

We are a community in regeneration. Deamalgamation has been cathartic and useful in helping us to be brave. The realities of our Council budget post Deamalgamation made it absolutely necessary that we set our sights on tomorrow not yesterday. We … [Continue reading]