Council outlines election priorities

(PRECEDE)

As the 2020 Queensland State Election edges closer, the Southern Downs Regional Council has prepared an “advocacy document for all candidates” entitled ‘Speaking up for the Southern Downs’, which the council says lists priorities to progress the region.

A spokeswoman said ‘Speaking up for the Southern Downs’ “focuses on several areas of future development including infrastructure, environment, agriculture, economy, innovation, and community and calls on all candidates to support and spearhead initiatives that will boost the sustainability and liveability of our region”.

Mayor Vic Pennisi said the document was “developed to further grow the relationship between Local and State Governments”.

“Great things happen when the different levels of government work together. But the first step is always communication,” Cr Pennisi said this week.

“ ‘Speaking up for the Southern Downs’ showcases areas and projects that Council will be advocating for in future.

“We have such a diverse region with so many viable initiatives that can be explored, and this strategic document lists key projects that with State Government investment and support, could see accomplished in the coming years.”

This week the Free Times features some of the detail from the document on key projects listed under the heading of ‘Infrastructure’, as well as key points under the headings – Environment, Agriculture, Innovation, Economy and Community.

• The full document ‘Speaking up for the Southern Downs’ can be found on Council’s website at www.sdrc.qld.gov.au.

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Speaking up for Southern Downs – Infrastructure

Our region needs State government investment in infrastructure – that boosts the economy, keeps our region moving forward and meets our community’s needs. SDRC calls on the State Government of Queensland and all candidates to….

• Assist with the development of regional water solutions and water independence for Region and investment in regional water assets. RATIONALE: Our community requires extensive water carting and water restrictions and we are grateful of support provided to date from the Palaszczuk Government. We are hopeful this financial support will continue through a commitment to continue funding water carting to Stanthorpe until Storm King Dam exceeds 60% capacity. Lead regional water alliances, cross border solutions and water planning to help SDRC address long term water security issues greatly affecting the Region. Drought continues to grip the region and water is pivotal to all aspects of life and business in the Region. Collaborative planning and investment in a range of water solutions is the key to water independence and the survival of the region. Establish a dedicated fund or the reintroduction of the subsidy to support Councils with the replacement of aging water and sewer infrastructure. Invest in new water solutions, for example Warwick to Toowoomba pipeline or other intraregional pipelines, bore fields, water storages, raising dam walls. Fund a pilot project to implement smart water meters in Stanthorpe to assist with creating reliable water sources, to capitalise on changed water use behaviours and provide accountable, real time usage data.

• Take an active leadership role in bringing forward the planning and design on major improvements to Cunningham’s Gap, seeking inclusion on Infrastructure Australia’s priority list. RATIONALE: to ensure that this important National Highway and National Heavy Vehicle Freight Route be planned, designed and included on Infrastructure Australia’s list. The region is dependent upon this road being open and following the bushfire disaster, or any major rain events, the highway has at times been cut for time periods of up to 5 weeks. This has a significant and crippling impact on local businesses and the economic stability of the region.

• Expedite the replacement of Carnarvon Bridge that spans Quart Pot Creek in Stanthorpe. RATIONALE: To provide a safe and efficient connection to the central business area of Stanthorpe.

• Commit to further consideration of the Inland Rail route through Warwick, to Bromelton, as opposed to the route from Yelarbon to Bromelton. RATIONALE: The Warwick route does not experience the extent of flood impact, nor does it traverse good quality agricultural land; two issues which continue to raise concerns over the current alignment across the Millmerran flood plain.

• Fund the 1/4 mile track and upgrade infrastructure at the Warwick Dragway located at Morgan Park to boost tourism and the local economy. RATIONALE: The facility is appropriately located to have minimal impact on residential properties, with future protections in place, and has excellent access to the highway network. Expanding the facility would enable likeminded industry to be located in the adjoining industrial estate, attract major car events and increase tourism opportunities for the region.

• Provide human and financial resources for the creation of a regional waste management solution. RATIONALE: Work with several regional councils including SDRC to start planning and delivering a waste alliance that can explore data, options and potential savings associated with regional or cross border solutions for waste. To begin the process, we call for the release of the Queensland Waste Strategy, completed in August 2019, but not yet endorsed by Department of Environment and Science as good data is the key to understanding volumes, scale and opportunities for the region and neighbouring local government authorities. Explore waste by rail, waste to energy and collaborative tendering or contracts, shared service models and other options to garner economies of scale. Undertake a holistic review of the waste levy with a view to providing local government a greater share of revenue to invest in management of legacy waste sites and strategic waste management initiatives that reduce waste to landfill.

• Finalise a specific location and timeframe for the construction of a heavy vehicle bypass for Warwick. RATIONALE: This will enable a route to be protected in the development of the planning scheme and acknowledged in other strategic documents. Logistics and transport are a key part of the region’s economy and industry.

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OTHER KEY POLICY AREAS…

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Environment

• Provide funding to Local Government for dedicated Bushcare Officers.

• Implement a sustainable land management certification program for the funding of a Southern Downs pilot program that incentivises improved/sustainable land management practices.

• Assist with development of a holistic management plan for the unique Cambanoora Gorge.

• Promote the development of ecotourism opportunities, enhanced through protected area expansion and investment of funding towards the development of an outdoor recreation trails strategy.

• Assist Council with enabling landowners to become more self-sufficient in relation to water supply.

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Agriculture

• Provide funding for the implementation of the master plan and rebuild of the Warwick Saleyards.

• Promote the development of agri-tourism opportunities.

• Provide additional exclusion fencing funding through the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative.

• Undertake a holistic review of the waste levy on agricultural plastic.

• Commit to including horticulture in future drought assistance schemes.

• Long-term commitment to enhance the capability of the Applethorpe Research Station

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Innovation

• Co-invest with industry in evaporation control for on-farm irrigation storages.

• Encourage community energy development, such as micro grids supplied by renewable energy sources including solar, wind, waste to energy and pumped hydro.

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Economy

• COVID-19 recovery funding to assist Southern Downs residents and stimulate the regional economy.

• Expedite the delivery of Queensland Reconstruction Authority disaster recovery funding.

• Provide funding to support the reduction of impacts from widespread invasive pest weeds and animals.

• Provide funding for large scale tourism projects and events within the Southern Downs.

• Support the continuation of funding for Council based Regional Skills Investment Strategy program.

• Support for inclusion of Warwick in the Intern Incentive Allowance for Rural Pharmacies.

(SUBHEAD)

Community

• Support the maintenance of a regional news presence.

• Establishment of a new Warwick legal precinct (ie Police Station and courthouse) and further regionalisation of government agencies.

• Establish a Cross Border Commissioner to assist residents navigate bureaucratic matters which arise from living in a border community.

• Investment in creative industries infrastructure and programs to support an active Southern Downs Arts Collective as a pivotal part of the region’s economy and livelihood.

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