With a few months behind you now, I hope you have had time to settle into your roles and this term of local government. There is no doubt it has been an unprecedented time to be an elected member. There are many pressures on our communities, on local business and on local, state, and federal resources.
While restrictions are now beginning to ease in Queensland and across Australia, and there have been substantial successes in reducing the spread of COVID-19, there remains a very real chance that if hygiene protocols and restrictions are not adhered to, the disease will again escalate. As elected members our roles now are two-fold. We need to remain vigilant in our role of protecting our communities and we now need to put considerable energy into supporting and re-energising our communities through the recovery process. These are not easy tasks and there is no magic formula for leadership. Yet residents will naturally be looking to their local elected representatives for both guidance and comfort. There is an expectation that your council is actively planning and leading the recovery phase and taking purposeful action. There are already many examples of fantastic council-led recovery programs and resources across the state and I am heartened to see councils and elected members fully embracing their roles with energy.
Local Leadership has never been so important for communities recovering from COVID-19
Your work in this area has also been bolstered by recent good news around funding from the State Government in the form of an extra $200 million for a COVID Works for Queensland Program, a special $50 million stimulus fund for SEQ councils, and $101 million in new money from the Federal Government to build important infrastructure under the $500 million Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program. These programs will deliver an important stimulus at a critical time and demonstrates the responsiveness of all levels of government and the power of council-led advocacy. While we continue on this path of recovery and continue strengthening our communities, the foundations of your council must remain strong–your staff, management systems, capital works programs, service delivery arrangements and finances. It’s vital to keep in mind that all policy decisions around COVID-19 and recovery efforts should be well considered and should strive to keep those important foundations intact, even with the prospect of short-term benefit. More than ever, we must also be alive to the complex demographics of our communities.
In a rush to offer assistance, we should pay careful attention to not overlook segments of our communities experiencing particular disadvantage and we must ensure our efforts are focussed on those areas that will have the greatest impact. One size-fits-all policy decisions can sometimes result in unintended consequences. Detailed policies that respond to genuine disadvantage are likely to result in much better outcomes and deliver the greatest return for your communities. It’s important to remember that not everyone will be impacted the same way–and it is the job of our councils to understand and appropriately respond to these differences.
Local leadership has never been so important.