Job cuts to devastate region
THE Central Highlands is about to feel the shockwave of State Government public service job cuts with Mayor Peter Maguire worried the impact on the social and economic infrastructure across the region will be "devastating".
Cr Maguire challenged Premier Campbell Newman to reassure Central Highlanders they would not have to travel further or wait longer for services when the fallout from the 20,000-plus jobs slashed statewide was fully revealed.
And he railed against years of economic and resource growth in the region being ignored when it came to supporting the state economy, despite assurances it would be recognised.
"The State Government has said no frontline jobs are going, but when positions are pulled out of places like Emerald and placed in Rockhampton, that represents a big loss to our community," Cr Maguire said.
"Our school numbers are affected, our local businesses have less people coming into them, and our sporting and social clubs have fewer numbers and volunteers.
"This region has been at the centre of the economic engine room for our state for many years."
The Department of Main Roads and Transport's Emerald office with about 60 staff is expected to be gutted, and Cr Maguire fears the Central Highlands will not be spared some of the 4000 extra jobs to go from Queensland Health, as well as other support agencies.
"Whatever is given would not make up for the impact of the growth in the resource sector as well as these cuts to State Government agencies," Cr Maguire added. "We've put up with the inability to influence the social, environmental or cumulative impacts of new mining projects.
"We have seen the huge growth in the FIFO and DIDO workforce, and all the impacts that these work practices have on our communities.
"The State Government may save some money (with job cuts) but the impacts to the economic and social infrastructure of our regional communities can be devastating."
After spending more than $1 million on flood studies in the wake of the 2010/11 natural disaster and barely beginning some flood-proofing works funded jointly by affected government stakeholders, the Central Highlands Council has also been left high and dry with flood mitigation works grinding to a halt on the eve of the wet season.
Cr Maguire said all relevant state agencies involved in the work had given him "the clear message ... that their ability to provide support prior to the next wet season will be severely impacted because of their inability to proceed with new capital works, including those targeting flood mitigation".
"How do we tell insurance agencies to come back, that we are making progress, when the state agencies can't deliver?" he said.
But SunWater yesterday said works on the Emerald's LN1 drain would resume in early September.
"Work has stopped temporarily to enable the scope of the work to be reviewed," a spokeswoman said.
"A level survey of the bed of the drain has been completed. Work is being undertaken to confirm the required bed levels of the drain and the quantity of silt to be removed."
MP vows to fight over potential losses
GREGORY MP Vaughan Johnson says he will fight to ensure Emerald and the wider Central Highlands retain vital frontline positions as his LNP government continues to cut jobs across the state.
Mr Johnson said he was unaware of positions in the axing line at the Emerald Hospital, and declared any positions cut from the Emerald Department of Transport and Main Roads would be a devastating blow to the region.
The Newman Government has redefined frontline staffers as those who spent at least three-quarters of their time directly interacting with the public, either face-to-face or on the phone. Previously, they only had to spend the "majority of their time" serving the public to be considered frontline.
The changes mean 12% more workers are now classified as pen-pushers and face losing their jobs as part of the State Government's cost cuts.
Regarding the Emerald Hospital, Mr Johnson said the deliverance of local hospital boards early in the Newman term meant the beginning of what he admitted to being a long-term process had begun.
"Local people have local control," Mr Johnson said.
"They are first-hand at the coalface and know what is happening at the coalface and can implement strategies to improve health services."
Mr Johnson said the program was instigated within four months of Mr Newman taking power, but the benefits would be long term, not immediate.
"People will be pleasantly surprised by what it means," he said.
But he outright declared any cuts to Emerald's TMR as detrimental to the development of the Cental Highlands region.
Mr Johnson described the job cuts as "fat trimming" and said the Emerald branch had already endured 25 voluntary separations last year, and the positions remained unfilled.
"Transport and Main Roads can't keep abreast of the exploding development in the region," he said.
"It is absolutely important that Department of Transport and Main Roads have full retention of their professional staff there in Emerald for the ongoing rehabilitation of (flood) damage, as well as the modelling and planning for the Central Highlands region."
Mr Johnson said he would meet with Transport and Main Roads director general Michael Caltabiano and Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson on Friday to determine the full extent of job cuts in Emerald.
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