CH Mayor: We need more money

FAMILIES will be slugged with a multi-million dollar infrastructure bill should the State Government continue to neglect rural and regional communities.

That's the view of Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire, who says the CHRC will be left with little option but to increase rates to cover vital repairs and upgrades to public facilities in all towns throughout the local government area.

"What I'm concerned about is in rural and regional Queensland, there are 10 seats out of 89 in State Parliament," Cr Maguire said.

"All the votes are in the south-east and coastal areas."

Mayor Peter Maguire

"I'm seeking a commitment from the current, or any other government that may be formed, to address a number of issues we have throughout the whole region."

The CHRC yesterday released its four-page manifesto, detailing the major concerns of all communities in the local government area (see page 6), which pre-empted the ALP and LNP's resource communities policies announced this week.

But according to Cr Maguire, both fall short of appropriate levels of funding needed to sustain the Central Highlands region into a future linked to the mining boom.

Campbell Newman's LNP declared $285 million over four years for road repairs under the Roads to Resources program, a sub-section of the total $455 Royalties for the Regions pledge.

The ALP, under sitting Premier Anna Bligh, countered with its Royalties for our Regions policy, promising $300 million over the same period, but was less detailed than the LNP's.

Regardless of the multi-million-dollar pledges, Cr Maguire said the CHRC could "easily spend $300 million fixing our stuff" alone, without factoring in the needs of neighbouring resource regions.

"If it covers all of Queensland, it's not going to help the Bowen Basin people," he said.


"I could spend $300 million in my own area."

Mayor Peter Maguire


"It means we will be competing against all other councils. We're stuck right in the middle of where all the action is."

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday announced an extra $40 million in funding for state roads repairs, including the Bruce Highway.

But Cr Maguire said focus should be given to establishing an inland route to ensure rural and regional communities such as Rolleston were not isolated for months at a time during flood events.

"Panorama Creek needs fixing up (so) Rolleston doesn't get cut off," he said.

"I don't know how much that figure is, it might be $50-$60 million, I don't know, but it needs to be done."

Cr Maguire called for an upgrade to the Emerald airport, including extending the runway by 400m and increasing the parking capacity of aircraft to accommodate the increased volume of passengers flying in and out of the town.

The CHRC has identified land for a retirement home to be built in Springsure but lacks the funding for development.

More childcare facilities are needed in each town in the region to cater for the increased number of families moving to the town.

"We need the childcare facilities if we are going to attract people to the region with young children," Cr Maguire said.


"There are no vacancies in the whole region, as far as I am aware."

Mayor Peter Maguire


While he conceded it was an advantageous time to call on state government candidates during an election, Cr Maguire was adamant the issues outlined in the manifesto were concerns the council had raised with the State Government on a number of occasions throughout the past four years.

FACED with crumbling social infrastructure and the prospect of hitting ratepayers with higher fees, the Central Highlands Regional Council has issued its manifesto to all political hopefuls.

Despite lacking a total dollar figure, CHRC Mayor Peter Maguire said the council could easily allocate $300 million to various projects in the region, without sharing the funds with neighbouring Isaac and Banana councils.


Here are some of the main points in the manifesto:


Inland route

SEVERE weather events isolate towns such as Rolleston and residents are left isolated and stranded.

The CHRC has called for an inland road transport route from the south to central and northern Queensland to ensure vital resupplies and accessibility options for residents.

"Everyone is talking about the Bruce (Hwy). I'm talking about the inland highway," Cr Maguire said.


Raising Vince Lester Bridge

MORE than 8500 people are left stranded on Emerald's western side during flood events.

Cr Maguire has renewed his call for the State Government to commit to raising the Vince Lester Bridge across the Nogoa River.

"Raising the Vince Lester Bridge would provide for a higher level bridge across the Nogoa River, commencing at the same level as the Shell Service Station as a minimum (height)," the manifesto says.

"This would provide the opportunity for safe, timely and orderly evacuation of these 8500 residents if needed."


Blackwater Hospital

MAYOR Maguire said the Blackwater Hospital, in urgent need of repair and upgrade, had "disappeared from the State Government's radar" and was calling for it to be rediscovered.

"The promise of a new hospital for Blackwater Hospital has been around for years," Cr Maguire said.

"It was promised then taken off the radar.

"I don't know why, but we're concerned it's not on the list."


Water and sewerage

THE State Government's removal of the capital subsidy scheme delivered a financial blow to the CHRC, and Cr Maguire wants it reinstated.

Emerald urgently needs a new water treatment plant, according to the manifesto, as the town's existing infrastructure struggles to cope with the growing population.

"Under current arrangements, (the) council has nowhere to go to find these extra funds other than to raise rates or go further into debt," the manifesto says.


Affordable housing

THE CHRC has been forced to break council practice and establish a housing company in an attempt to deliver affordable housing for the burgeoning population.

It is the "single most important issue" facing the council, according to the manifesto, as small businesses and the agricultural sector struggle to attract and retain staff in the face of high mining wages or companies that offer rental subsidies.

"The State Government hasn't addressed issues around... affordable housing, hence the council forming the affordable housing company," Cr Maguire said.

"That's not something councils usually do, but we've been left with little option but to."


Supporting the rural sector

WHILE the Queensland economy reaps the rewards of the resource sector, the CHRC has called for measures to be implemented to ensure rural industries remain viable into the future.

"Our cotton, cattle and agricultural sectors are also strong contributors to our regional and national wealth," the manifesto says.

"Their interests and needs must be protected."


Retirement in Springsure

LAND has been identified in Springsure for the construction of a retirement home in the town, but the CHRC lacks the funds to begin development.

Backed by overwhelming local support, the CHRC is calling for the State Government to allocate adequate money to build the facility.


Childcare services

THERE are presently no vacancies at childcare facilities throughout the Central Highlands, which Cr Maguire said complicated the push to attract permanent families to the region.

"We need the childcare facilities if we are going to attract people to the region with young children," he said.

"There are no vacancies in the whole region, as far as I am aware."


Future planning

THE CHRC has developed a 10-year strategic plan to target predicted development projects as the region struggles to manage growth.

"State agencies, including schools, health providers and emergency services must review their forward planning strategies to ensure they have adequate land to meet the demands of the community in the future," the manifesto says.


Affordable medicine

TOGETHER with the Bowen Basin Leadership Group, Cr Maguire commissioned Health Workforce Queensland to develop a regional health plan so Central Highlanders have access to affordable services.

"There will be an emphasis on developing options for implementing a plan that is realistic, sustainable and affordable," the manifesto says.

Cr Maguire reiterated the call for communities such as Capella, Rolleston and Blackwater, which have been without sustainable locally based medical services for long periods of time, to be included in the incoming State Government's plan.


Waste reduction strategy

THE CHRC is seeking a commitment from the government to remove the commercial waste levy.

"(It) placed additional financial burdens on (the) council, and the community," the manifesto says. 

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