It is never lost on us at LGAQ headquarters how our member councils come in all shapes and sizes – from Brisbane City’s 1.2 million people and $3 billion budget, to the Croydon Shire in the Gulf of Carpentaria with 258 residents and $10 million budget. And let’s not forget the 1950 kilometres in distance separating the two communities!
Of course, we are also blessed to have 17 First Nations councils in our total membership of 77 councils throughout our vast state.
In geographical terms, Queensland is simply huge, with a coastline reaching 6973 km, plus another 6374 km of island coastline. Top to bottom, from the Coolangatta border to Saibai Island (Torres Strait Island Regional Council), the total distance is 2374km. At its widest – East to West from Hervey Bay to the Simpson Desert abutting the Northern Territory border – Queensland stretches almost 1500km across.
Compared to New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory, Queensland is unique in that its entire land mass is covered by local government. The only other physically large state to have its total land mass incorporated is Western Australia, which has 144 councils.
Our landscape also varies greatly, particularly in a fauna and flora sense. We have the iconic Great Barrier Reef, deserts, the Great Dividing Range, wet tropics, savannah country, the Granite Belt (with occasional snow), fertile black soil plains, mulga country, rich open Mitchell grass grazing lands, lakes and verdant coastal communities. And let’s not forget every creature from cassowaries to camels, and plenty of nasty blighters to boot. You name it, Queensland's got it.
So how does anyone govern Queensland, the state with the most dispersed population in the country?
With difficulty. Just ask our state politicians. Every Queensland Parliament since inception in 1859 has wrestled with the dilemma of a very large, diverse land mass with all nature of challenges.
For the LGAQ, we deal with our jurisdiction in a number of ways. Firstly, through the geographical Policy Executive (PE) Electoral Districts that entitle every region to have a voice and a seat at the PE table (which meets bi - monthly). This system serves all of Queensland with great balance, currently having five SEQ representatives including the President, four provincial coastal community representatives, five rural and remote representatives and two First Nation representatives. This is especially so when you have our largest council – Brisbane – and the two remotest mainland councils – Diamantina and Cook Shires – sitting around the same PE table. As an outcome of the most recent PE elections in May/June last year, we have an historic situation where Cape York has effectively three PE representatives – the Mayors of Cook, Hopevale and Lockhart River .
And it doesn’t stop there! For operational purposes, the LGAQ has divided councils into five cohorts of similar municipal bodies – Rural and Remote, SEQ, First Nations, Coastal and Resource Communities. That way we have a sharper advocacy focus on your council’s needs. We have teams of staff who have a personal responsibility for an individual council segment as a part of their day-to-day operations. They produce segment plans based on member views and interactions that have to past muster with the PE. This keen individual focus flows through to Annual Conference where we conduct council segment breakouts to test ideas and get input on future direction.
Beyond that, we travel and travel…and then travel some more. Listening is our strong suit. Over the next few months, expect us to pop up just about everywhere – at your council, your ROC and special conferences like the Bush Councils Convention and the Coastal Leaders Conference.
As someone who has the good fortune over the past 29 years to have visited every shire, town and city many times, I certainly understand and appreciate the extraordinary diversity and unique challenges of every member council. Rest assured, we will continue our laser-like focus on every members' needs, via the LGAQ’s unique Customer Franchise Operating Model .
The LGAQ has also spent the seven months since the last State Budget was handed down advocating for better funding for our members to be included in this coming Budget, due to be handed down on Tuesday afternoon.
That includes arguing for funding for water security to address the rural town water infrastructure cliff, adequate support for border councils who have taken a hit to their already strained budgets in order to help the State enforce its border closures, increases to programs like TIDs, and of course, the restoration of Works for Queensland funding.
The current forward estimates show the program’s funding will be cut from $100 million a year to $70 million in 2022/23 and then down to $30 million in 2023/24. You, our members, unanimously backed a resolution at last year’s Annual Conference for this funding to be maintained. The LGAQ has been strongly articulating this position to the State and will continue to do so.
Finally, a big shout out to the 250 delegates, speakers, exhibitors and organisers of the LGAQ’s 2021 Disaster Management Conference in Brisbane this week. It was a cracker by all reports.