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Scaling a mountain of potential

Thursday, 8 February 2018

This story is from the Feb-March edition of the Council Leader magazine. Keep an eye out for it here or contact us if you would like to receive a hard copy. 

The biggest population centre in north-west Queensland is in the midst of a rebrand; and the spotlight is squarely on the liveability and growth of tourism in the city.

The city of Mount Isa sits 820 km west of Townsville, 160 km from the Northern Territory border and 350 km south of the Gulf of Carpentaria.Mt ISa

It’s bordered by the kind of red dirt that is synonymous with outback Australia; a city of over 20, 000 in located in the heart of Queensland’s sprawling north-west.

In 2018, it’s colourful history as a mining town - and the world’s largest single mine of copper, lead, silver and zinc - is being overshadowed by a new focus on an economically diverse future.

With major events like the long-running Mount Isa Rodeo and last year’s Triple J music festival ‘One Night Stand’ building buzz around the city’s tourism offerings, it’s an exciting time for the new-look Council.

A city in transition

As the first female mayor in Mount Isa’s history, Mayor Joyce McCulloch sits at the helm of a fresh-faced council with a strong vision for growth.

Speaking on the future of the region, Mayor McCulloch said that Mount Isa had flown under the radar for many years as a liveable city and attractive tourism destination.

“Many of our visitors to Mount Isa are pleasantly surprised by what they find,” she said.

“Our current focus for council is helping our community unlock that opportunity that exists within our region.”

The strategy is underpinned by the City’s new three-year Economic Development Strategy, aiming to diversify the economy, create more jobs and facilitate greater choice in the region.

Acting Mount Isa City Council CEO Sharon Ibardolaza said that the clarity of purpose in Council’s economic strategy was echoed at an operational level with an organisational review to better support Council’s goals.Mt Isa

“We’re taking steps to modernise operationally to ensure we deliver on the strategy and vision of Council.

“A restructure of our governance team, investment in our website, an increased focus on social media and modernising our IT system have all contributed to our current positioning,” she said.

Leading by example

With two female leaders at the helm in Ms Ibardolaza and Mayor McCulloch, mindful organisational and cultural within change in Council has been a key priority. 

“I’ve always said – organisational culture flows through to our community, said Mayor McCulloch.

“Our role as council has evolved to the point where we see ourselves as an enabler of local ownership around our shared future as a community.”

Creating and fostering new alliances and partnerships has been another significant priority for Mount Isa City Council this local government term.

With the Australian Mining Cities Alliance, Mount Isa joined cross-border cities Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Broken Hill in an alliance to back development and jobs growth in regional Australia.

Mayor McCulloch said that it was vital regional Australia’s mining cities had a loud and united voice.

“Local councils are the voice of hundreds of local communities across Australia which are often dependent on a single large mining project or commodity.

“If that employer or prospective new job-generating industry is impeded by bureaucratic delays and processes, it’s our communities, and our families, that pay the price.”

Challenges and new horizons

Exorbitant passenger and flight services connecting Mount Isa to the rest of the country have been a major challenge for the region, a factor which Mayor McCulloch says has been holding back economic progress in regional communities.

Council has welcomed the Senate inquiry into air services for rural, remote and regional Australia as long overdue.

Water security and affordability is also in the sights of Council in 2018.

“It’s our intention to create a ‘green’ Mount Isa.”

“To fully achieve this we need to review our water fees and start to challenge some of the structures around how we pay for, and conserve water.”

A solar powered water supply (a Queensland first) is among the projects being considered to reduce costs and enhance water security.Mt Isa

With significant solar resources enjoyed by the region - approximately 5.80 kilowatt hours per square metre daily – the model makes sense.

Mayor McCulloch said it was an exciting time for Council, with plenty of opportunities for development and putting ownership back into the city.

“We need leadership with energy and vision which doesn’t stop with our policy but is also reflected at an operational level.”

“We think we’ve got the balance right to propel us into a new space as a Council.”

Local Government Association of Queensland
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