By Stirling Hinchliffe MP / Minister for Local Government, Minister for Racing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
I was extremely pleased to be able to address many of you at the Civic Leaders Summit, albeit not in person. The need to stream via video is indicative of the world in which we now live.
This year has been enormously challenging and I would like to congratulate everyone in the local government sector for the way you have risen to the challenge of working with your communities in the face of unparalleled adversity. In difficult times, our communities demand and deserve strong leadership, and this is being delivered across the state. What makes this even more impressive is that for many of our mayors and councillors, this is your first term of representation in a term that has only just begun.
Of course, our councils are not in this alone and the Palaszczuk Government is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with each one to deal with COVID-19 and the aftermath. From a health perspective, we have all managed the virus remarkably well. Together we have adapted to changes in education and in the way we work, right down to how councils meet. We made temporary amendments to both the Local Government Regulation 2012 and the City of Brisbane Regulation 2012 to allow for meetings to be held by electronic means to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. Councils have also led the way in ensuring compliance within their communities, which has gone a long way to seeing restrictions eased. But while we are winning the battle on the health front, the economic and social recovery will take time. The road ahead will be far from easy.
To tackle this challenge, the Queensland Government has put together a $6 billion economic recovery strategy: Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs, which includes funding directly targeted to help local governments get communities back on their feet.A major part of the strategy is the $200 million COVID Works for Queensland program. This program has been enormously successful throughout regional Queensland, and now every council will be given a boost to deliver job-creating infrastructure and maintenance projects in communities across the state, such as new, upgraded or refurbished community centres and libraries, bikeways and footpaths, caravan parks, sport and recreation facilities and critical water, sewer and waste management infrastructure. We recognise the enormous economic impact, including unemployment, that has come in the wake of this pandemic and this funding will give councils the capacity to deliver projects in the areas of essential services, economic development and community wellbeing. The significant partnership that exists between our two tiers of government in Queensland keeps us all working, and working hard, in the interests of those we serve.
In the 2019-20 financial year alone, the Palaszczuk Government committed more than $1.4 billion across dozens of grant and funding rounds specifically aimed at supporting local governments.These programs include the $600 million Works for Queensland program, the $515 million Building Our Regions, the vitally important Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme and many others that cut across most of our Government’s portfolios.But our collaborative efforts are more than just about support through grants. Weekly phone hookups between the premier, ministers and our mayors have ensured concerns are heard, ideas are shared, and critical information disseminated. Clearly, the funding will help to create jobs and ease some of the economic burdens our councils are facing right now, but we also have an ongoing commitment to streamline the application and reporting processes to ensure administrative burdens are eased.
We are continuing to consult with our councils on improving the ways in which we work together. It is perhaps more important than ever that our two levels of government stand united and work together for the good of all Queenslanders.
I encourage you to continue the wonderful work you are doing.