Lockyer Valley council reflect at halfway mark
THE LOCKYER Valley Regional Council have eclipsed the halfway mark of their term following their appointments in April of 2016.
The only exception is Rick Vela, who was voted in via a by-election in February following the departure of Jim McDonald to enter state parliament.
Three questions were presented to the councillors - what they have achieved in their role so far, have they kept their promises made at the election and what they are hoping to do in the next two years. Find their answers below.
I believe as a united council we have developed relationships and partnerships that have influenced faith and confidence in our region.
We successfully secured the investment and future investment for safe and appropriate backpacker accommodation. The Lockyer Valley and Somerset Water Collaborative was the initiative of this council and has resulted in the successful funding of $1.4 million for a business case to secure reliable and sustainable water.
Through the Council of Mayors, our council ensured the Resilient Rivers Initiative became a 'funded' reality for on the ground projects.
Two surpluses have been delivered by the council, with an emphasis on living within our means to ensure the future sustainability of the community.
A regional hospital is planned to be delivered in 10 years, subject to government approval.
We were also successful in attracting and delivering the largest regional community event to celebrate the Queen's Baton Relay.
By working with our neighbouring local government and the Council of Mayors, we have been able to influence a $15 million business case for passenger rail between Toowoomba and Brisbane.
I made no promises, but did claim I would do the following - work hard, be approachable, get the job done, provide stability, ensure a well managed budget and that I would nurture community confidence in its elected members, whilst promoting and encouraging community and organisational pride.
Going forward I want to lead by example, continue to promote our beautiful region, deliver the Planning Scheme, attract business and investment to secure employment opportunities, stay focussed on the big issues e.g. water delivery, healthcare services, inland rail, but not lose sight of the little things that matter.
Council has delivered an off-leash dog park in Laidley and is planning another in Gatton in this financial year.
Solar panels have been installed on council facilities to reduce electricity costs.
We have worked with the owners of the Grantham backpackers resort to deliver safe and affordable accommodation for farm workers to stay whilst working in our area.
The council has worked closely with the Lockyer Valley and Somerset Water Collaborative to secure $1.4 million to fund developing a Lockyer Valley and Somerset Water Security business case.
We have secured grant funding for $500,000 to upgrade woman's facilities at Cahill Park Sports Complex.
Council delivered a $750,000 lighting upgrade to the Laidley Recreation Grounds and has saved around $20,000 in electricity costs in the last 12 months.
I never made promises prior to being elected but we have delivered two surplus budgets in two years and this has been achieved by cutting unnecessary expenditure.
In the next two years I hope council can keep working together, with common goals and strategies to improve the liveability of our community in the short and long term, whilst operating within a surplus budget.
Individually, I haven't been able to achieve anything at all.
As a single councillor, it is not possible to achieve anything on your own.
I have been fortunate enough to have a whole council that is united in achieving a common goal within my finance portfolio.
We are committed to ensuring the long term financial sustainability of our council.
We have set the building blocks in place to achieve this through operational cost savings and focussing on asset renewal rather than funding new infrastructure.
We have achieved back-to-back small operating surpluses, which have enabled us to significantly reduce our debt, which of course improves our overall financial position.
I only made one promise during the election period. That promise was a commitment to make the best possible decisions for our community. I am confident, to date I have achieved this, based on the information that was made available at the time. I was very careful not to make any promises regarding actions or outcomes during the election process. Again, as a councillor it is simply not possible to make tangible promises, because without the support of the majority of council, nothing can be achieved.
For the remaining time of this council term, I hope we continue to be focussed on financial sustainability and responsible decision making. I hope we can build on the platform we have set thus far, and can continue to help promote and grow the Lockyer Valley. We continue to encourage openness and transparency in our council and this is something I am very passionate about.
I believe as a council we have achieved quite a lot given the two devastating floods experienced by the Lockyer Valley and how far that sets you back.
It's playing catch up for quite a long time and we are getting there.
The only promises I made was to do the very best for the region that I can and I am doing that.
As a director on the Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board, we really have made huge inroads in reducing rabbit numbers within the region, but we really need to eradicate them and that is everyone's responsibility.
We cannot afford to have rabbits in our horticultural industry.
I was recently appointed by the Federal Minister John McVeigh to be Chairperson of Regional Development Australia Ipswich and West Moreton Committee so I see that as an important role to advocate for the region in the federal arena and put a real focus on our rural areas so we can prosper as a region.
At RDAIWM, we will soon launch our Agricultural Needs Analysis.
The Needs Analysis is a strategic summary of the infrastructure needs to facilitate agricultural growth in the region. I believe the Lockyer Valley has a bright future.
In the past six months I have worked to build relationships with environment stakeholder groups located in the Lockyer Valley region while also gaining an understanding of the work that they carry out and how council can assist them.
I have also focussed on gaining a better understanding of the roles we play in natural resource, pest and weed management in the region. My only commitment at the last election was to join the existing council team and continue on the pathway they had set out for this term on council.
I have certainly been able to achieve this.
I want to continue to be easily accessible and be open to listening and helping members of the community with their concerns and working with them to create solutions.
I want to continue my commitment to learning, building relationships and working hard to achieve good outcomes for our community.
WHEN ASKED what have I achieved over the past two years my first thought is that there is no 'I' in team, and for a council to be truly effective it must function as a team.
I am very proud to be a part of the current council team.
I believe that we are achieving the goals that the community expressed to us during the last election campaign.
We have striven to be frugal and to concentrate on the essentials rather than the flashy which has led to a substantial surplus that has enabled us to pay down some debt.
Wherever possible we have sought the communities opinion and listened.
Also, as a council I believe that we strive to be open and accountable.
Over the next two years I look forward to a new 'Whole of Valley' Planning Scheme coming into effect.
At the beginning of the term I was asked 'what is one thing that you would like to achieve in your portfolio during this term of council?'
My answer was to see the disconnect between the community and council repaired. We can achieve more if we work together.
It has been rewarding to see community groups including our schools and churches supporting many local events, both established favourites and the new ones.
The one that showcased our region nationally was the Queen's Baton Relay.
While the choice of day was not ours and the weather was far from good, the Lockyer Valley managed to put on the largest QBR event outside the capital cities, with over 4000 in attendance.
Within council our biggest achievements have not been individual but through working as a team with a shared vision. Prior to coming into council, all councillors heard the message; 'responsible financial management, no Taj Mahals, spend within our means, and get rid of the debt'. All councillors share that sentiment and are committed to making that a reality.
Our first two budgets have been balanced, and we have managed to reduce the debt by $9M. While there will always be exceptions, and we have a long way to go, I feel that it has been a positive two years for the community and we aim to continue in that direction.
A lot of work is going into this document as it is the cornerstone of future development and sets the framework for the future cohesion and usability of our area.
I urge everyone to become involved and give their feedback when it comes out for public consultation early next year.