Councils on the frontline

Published: 15th November 2019

I’ve seen fire, but no rain.

Where’s James Taylor when you need him?

A big call out and thumbs up to the magnificent mayors, councillors, local council disaster coordinators, police, volunteer firefighters, and Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) staff who have been fighting 70- plus fires across Queensland.

Absolute heroes all of them - with indistinguishable courage.


The disaster season in Queensland now starts a lot earlier and lasts longer. It’s gone from three or four months to six or seven months and undoubtedly taking a toll on all concerned.  Fire is not a one-off event anymore; it appears to be a regular feature on our Queensland landscape, and we have to accept that fact and deal with it.

No doubt when we get to April/ May next year it will be highly appropriate to do a comprehensive review and look at both the human cost and the current level of resources on the ground and at the State Disaster Coordination Centre (SDCC) which have to be activated and effectively stood up for such long periods. Moreover, access to water in country towns to protect life and property during bush fires is absolutely critical. The need to act to secure those supplies is urgent.

This week, is of course, Recycling Week, and in different circumstances the LGAQ would have had a lot to say, but fighting fires, especially the communications around those efforts, must come first. We don’t want to mix up the messaging.

Here’s some recycling facts for you:

  • Queenslanders currently produce over 10 million tonnes of waste per year
  • Councils own and manage 500 waste facilities to receive that waste
  • Queensland councils deliver a staggering 150 million red, green and yellow bin lifts a year
  • Last financial year, councils directly employed 2000 staff, including contractors, to operate waste collection and manage the 500 facilities
  • The total annual operating cost to councils for waste was $952 million, with an additional $479 million spent on capital to support that service to the community

Whichever way you want to look at it - waste is an enormous undertaking for our member councils and part of the roads, rates and rubbish trifecta.

For its part, the LGAQ has been focussed on working with the State Government to bring about the smoothest transition for the new Waste Levy - and securing 70% of those monies to help councils improve waste collection, recycling and the introduction of Energy from Waste (EfW) via advanced anaerobic digestion technology.

As always, we are focussing on practical measures such as using increased quantities of rubber and crushed glass in road pavement – indeed, recycling asphalt itself. To that end, the LGAQ is conducting a study tour with 29 councils to Melbourne at the end of the month to visit the Australian Road Research Board laboratories and meet with the Australian Asphalt and Pavement Association and various private sector firms to see how we can radically increase the use of recycled material in the 10, 000 kilometres of road reseal the state’s 77 councils do every year. Lifting the use of recycled material in reseals, over say five years - to between a third and a half of all inputs is eminently doable and will save money as well as the environment.

Finally, in what’s been a very big week, I hosted my interstate Local Government Association counterparts for the annual meeting, to swap ideas and new developments in our respective patches. The LGAQ also hosted a very successful LGx event – a two-day symposium for council media and communications staff. Lastly, we conducted the first ever Jadu training academy - reflecting the fact that 21 councils have made the move to our new website technology platform Jadu, and double that number of members will have made the big move by 30 June next year.

Exciting times for sure.