From the Mayor's Desk - August 2020
I was proud to take part in the inaugural assembly of the recently formed Western Queensland Alliance of Councils in Longreach in late July.
This new group unites the 21 local governments in Western Queensland through their representative bodies – the North West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils (of which Mount Isa City Council is a member), the Remote Area Planning and Development Board, and the South West Local Government Association.
At the assembly, we formalised the new Alliance and began developing our long-term priorities for Western Queensland, to put together a platform for this year’s Queensland state election on Saturday, October 31.
We share many of the same issues – decreasing pollution, high energy costs, high air fares, fly-in fly-out workforce, a FIFO health sector … the list goes on.
One of our priorities is addressing the issue of a shortage of affordable and suitable housing in Outback Queensland to attract and retain skilled workers, including healthcare professionals.
While our region certainly requires a lot more healthcare professionals, this isn’t possible unless we also have enough suitable housing in our community to make sure they are able to live and work in the city on a long-term basis.
I also had an opportunity at the Western Queensland Alliance of Councils assembly to raise concerns with Federal Minister, Hon David Littleproud MP, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management about reducing FIFO, investigating the high cost of airfares in rural areas and keeping and increasing the tax zone offset.
I was encouraged by the Minister’s response as he left us with these parting words about the tax zone offset: “Watch this space.”
People may not realise that the 21 councils in the Alliance collectively cover an incredible 60 percent of Queensland’s land mass and generate $9.35 billion of Queensland’s gross product from just 1.3 per cent of the state’s population.
Needless to say, we are punching well above our weight.
Therefore it is essential that our voices are heard in the run-up to the State election, to ensure fair and adequate investment in the long run for rural and remote Queensland, and we look forward to working closely with the current and next Queensland Government and the Australian Government.
The recent news of renewable-energy company Vast Solar’s interest in developing a large, 50-megawatt solar power farm in the Mount Isa area was very welcome indeed.
If this project goes ahead as planned, it would be an excellent outcome for our city and we as a Council will be working closely with Vast Solar throughout the development process.
I look forward to seeing the completion of a feasibility study into the proposal and further steps taken to bring this idea to fruition.
The solar farm itself may still be a few more years down the track, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye on its progress.
While we were not able to experience a full Isa Rodeo this year due to COVID-19, I hope many people got a chance to enjoy the thrills and spills of the Virtual Isa Rodeo online.
I wish to thank the Queensland Government for allocating $2.5 million to Council as part of the COVID Works for Queensland funding program. This funding will be invested in making much-needed improvements to the city’s water mains and sewerage systems as well as several reservoirs.
Recently the Queensland Government announced work had begun on a $6 million project to upgrade and increase the flood resilience of the railway line between Mount Isa and Townsville, with a focus on a 320km section between Hughenden and Cloncurry. They are also investing $80 million over the next four years to encourage freight operators and the resource industry to increase their use of the rail line.
This is very welcome news for our region and both projects will go a long way towards securing reliable and affordable transport for the mining industry’s products.
It was also great to hear that the Queensland Government will go ahead with a price-tracking software to monitor airfares in rural and regional Queensland.
Airfares have long been far too expensive for Mount Isa residents and it’s fantastic to see a significant step taken in an effort to bring the prices down to more reasonable levels.
I also want to thank Mount Isa residents for supporting local businesses and spending their money in our region.
I think we are all proud of the community spirit that’s been shown during the COVID crisis and it’s one of the many reasons we all chose to live here.
Her Worship Danielle Slade
Mayor of Mount Isa