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Blooming marvellous leadership

Friday, 20 September 2019

By Acting CEO Sarah Buckler

One of the most anticipated shows on the Queensland events calendar, Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers, kicks off this week and I will be one of the thousands of visitors travelling to the Garden City to enjoy the blooms and other attractions of this wonderful annual showcase.

For those who like their numbers, this 70th Carnival of Flowers will feature in full bloom about 180,000 bulbs and seedlings spread across 1100 hectares of public parks and private gardens. The event also holds the current Gold Award for Major Festival and Event at the annual Australian Tourism Awards.

The carnival could not happen without the dedication and expertise of Toowoomba Regional Council. But the council works hard to make the event a success as much for its social value as it does for the economic benefits it provides to local businesses.

Cities, towns and regions across Queensland each have their own signature events, from the Brisbane Festival and its Riverfire spectacular to the Birdsville Races, Julia Creek’s Dirt and Dust triathlon and the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival.

Such events are a major part of the business of councils nowadays, and represent significant investments. Some run at a loss. Others battle a hard core of local opposition and criticism about cost, inconvenience and relevance. All of them consume council time and resources like no other event bar a natural disaster.

So why do councils stick at it? Think of the secondary and tertiary benefits of these events to local communities. Think of the way these events demonstrate that councils are about so much more than roads, rates and rubbish. During the extended periods of recovery, post natural disasters, these events can often provide the connection and support that many need when faced with the rebuilding in their future. The social capital they generate and the sense of community identity they reinforce are not easily captured in a typical balance sheet, but these benefits are no less real than the financial profits (or losses) the events bring.

In a sense, this is why the LGAQ continues to push the community benefits of the State’s Works for Queensland program. Of course, the program is an effective jobs generator and in challenging economic times in the regions, that is no minor thing.

But the longer-term advantages of Works for Queensland come down to the program’s ability to ensure some communities can do things that they never could before and things that they really need.They have more capacity to stop population decline, for example, now that Works for Queensland is providing the means to build local infrastructure. In some Indigenous communities, the contribution of Works for Queensland has meant the difference between having decent sporting facilities for their kids and not. In rural towns, like Richmond, it can mean childcare facilities, essential to support people wanting to return to work.

The attitudes and commitment that drive what I’m talking about in this column will be on show at the LGAQ annual conference in Cairns in October. It’s the reason I’m looking forward to the conference, to see the civic leadership that only Queensland councils have gathering together and deciding the public policy outcomes their local communities want to see.

Greg Hallam will be back in the hot seat from next week. See you at the Carnival of Flowers!

Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006

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