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Browse our news stories about the activities and achievements of Queensland local councils and learn more about the challenges and issues affecting local government and their communities.

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Small towns, big plans in South West

From geothermal power in Thargomindah, to a 24-hour gym to support mental health in Quilpie, the communities of Queensland's South West are proof of the power of an entrepreneurial spirit.

An LGAQ delegation this week visited six local governments in the South West and Channel Country, from St George to Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, Quilpie, Charleville and Roma, with CEO Greg Hallam, Peak Services CEO Brent Reeman, and the Courier-Mail.

Water buy-backs and a transitioning agricultural economy were high on the agenda for Balonne Shire Council, but dry weather had the biggest role to play for irrigators in St George this year.

Balonne Shire Councillor and local irrigator Ian Todd said more growers were diversifying from the traditional water-intensive cotton crops as pulses reached record-high prices.

“This is the driest winter we’ve had for a while – we don’t like to complain about drought, we plan our business around the long-term average water we get,” Cr Todd said.

“The gross margin on cotton is better than anything else per hectare, but on a per megalitre basis – which is our most limited resource – we can get equal returns out of mung beans, chickpeas and other crops while the prices are up.

“Small towns like St George are absolutely dependant on irrigated agriculture, so if we’re going to take water out of these communities we’ve got to find something else to keep people and vibrancy about these communities. Continuity of business for the townspeople is what’s really important.

“Council is investigating a range of issues for economic stimulus – we’re going to get some good advice for the 10-year plan to revitalise the area and tourism is a part of that.”

For Bulloo Shire Council, harnessing their own geothermal energy from the Great Artesian Basin in Thargomindah is the next advance, with planning well underway for the project.

Quilpie Shire Council is gearing up to open a 24-hour gym in November this year, a joint initiative of community and council, set to benefit the diverse age group of the community from physical to mental wellbeing.

The local physical education teacher brought a committee together and pitched for council to provide the building, with sponsorships and fundraising providing the equipment and set-up.

Tourism remains a strong growth area for all the South West communities, with grey nomads pumping more money than ever into Queensland’s small towns, according to data collected by the caravanning clubs themselves.

The Roustabouts RV Club from SEQ has already spent more than $178,000 in regional towns since it formed in January this year.

“We’ve got 120 members already and each dollar is so valuable to these small towns,” Roustabouts President and Head Drover Brian Gill said.