Weekly Speak CEO Column
Salute to our community leaders
The only thing about north Queensland that was left untouched by the great deluge of February 2019, to which officialdom has given the benign label of “monsoon trough”, was the local community’s indomitable spirit. As the floodwaters receded in Townsville, there were countless stories of people doing their utmost to help neighbours cope with the disaster. Social media was full of images of daring rescues and acts of kindness, not to mention plenty of examples of north Queensland humour amid the adversity. Mayor Jenny Hill and her council began to assess the long and difficult job of recovery and reconstruction and to take note of the lessons learned from how the community and all levels of government responded to the disaster.
But while Townsville captured the nation’s attention for most of last week, this week it was the plight of those shires to the city’s west; Flinders, Richmond, McKinlay, Winton and Cloncurry, that took over the TV screens. The joy that greeted the rain after five years of punishing drought turned to despair as the worst floods in living memory worked to kill hundreds of thousands of cattle and all but sweep away the region’s economic lifeblood. Images on a screen cannot fully convey the distress this flood has caused, and kudos must go the State and Federal Governments for stepping in so quickly with funding services to care for the mental health of those bearing the full brunt of the disaster.
A big thank you to the mayors of these shires who are all riding an emotional rollercoaster as their communities suffer but also have the presence of mind to take advantage of events like the Prime Minister’s visit to Cloncurry yesterday and push the message that recovery and reconstruction is a business that cannot be a slave to short-term media cycles. A reminder that local councils are there for their communities before, during and after disaster strikes.
Two issues were clear at the end of the week: the economic impact of these floods will be felt by the entire nation eventually and the best help Australians can give local communities in the north west is to make sure the region figures in their future holiday plans. Tourism was already an important driver of the outback economy before this week. Now it is a lifesaver.
Our sector’s lobbying effort was being waged on a second front this week as President Mayor Mark Jamieson, his ALGA board colleague, Redlands Mayor Karen Williams and LGAQ advocacy general manager Sarah Buckler travelled to Canberra to catch up with various ministers at Parliament House and attend the ALGA strategic board meeting.
Keeping the local government sector front of mind as much as we can and not just in times when community hardship hits the headlines is a constant challenge.
With a federal election looming in 3 months, it is imperative that both the Government and Opposition listen to the asks of local government, especially the restoration of federal financial assistance grants to #justone percent, as when the waters recede, or the media scrums leave, councils are the true and only constant that will keep local communities together.
Can I remind you to progress the letter request from President Mark Jamieson to all councils, to pass a resolution acknowledging the value of federal assistance to your council and the importance of local communities receiving a fair share of government revenues, now and when the photo opportunity is gone. Here is a suggested form of words for such a resolution here.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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