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John Birkett

Question 1:

The community have expressed significant concerns regarding the perceived lack of consultation, insufficient information disclosure, unquantified financial decisions, and overall lack of transparency in Council's actions, particularly concerning agreements like the one with REX airlines and asset acquisitions such as the old grain depot.
 
What process would you implement to ensure adequate consultation with community, as well as ensuring financially prudent decisions are being made within the chamber? 

When we first got into council we were faced with making a huge financial decision straight off the bat with the Big Rig. Some of us had no knowledge of this project, even after attending corporate planning meetings as members of either community groups or just rate payers. This project had been on the books since 2013 and We were being pressured to commit to this project in the first quarter of the new term.

I did vote for this project to go ahead as did a few others purely on the fact that we would have had to hand back over 3 million dollars of funding money and 1 million was taken off the car park. The maintenance alone could be up to $300,000/year and still unclear.

 

TMR awarded the contract to Rex Airlines, not Council and prior to that Council held 2 public meeting to hear the concerns and complaints about Qantas.

 

We purchased the land for $190,000, which the grain shed was on, the building wasn’t in the deal, as it was supposed to be demolished by GrainCorp in their agreement with Q/Rail.

As part of our negotiations we asked to save the building at no cost and we were under a time issue, as GrainCorp had to have had the building pulled down prior to the land going back to Q/Rail.

 

We also purchased the vacant block where the old Empire Hotel was on, as the public didn’t want a service station there and we did need more off street parking, we purchased it for $700,000, no business plan or public consultation but was unanimously voted through.

Question 2:

RCAT recognises the vital role that businesses play in our regional economy and community. With this in mind, we're keen to understand your vision and proposed strategies for supporting our local business community into the future. Could you outline specific initiatives or policies you plan to champion to support growth, innovation, and resilience among our local businesses.

Last election we stood for a rates freeze and this was passed down, which gave local businesses some financial relief.

In some areas we have created or sold industrial blocks for local businesses to start or expand. For example some historical vacant  industrial blocks in Mitchell were sold to a local business after meeting and negotiating the best solution for them to expand their steel yard and shift their tank making business onto, creating more industry and employment.

Our Micro panel is another incentive for local businesses and is also a cost saver for Council, plus getting jobs done quickly, which is good for the rate payers.

Personally I would like to see the planning and DA process more streamlined and user friendly to allow it easier and more inviting to either build or to expand businesses.

Question 3:

As a councillor, the importance of having a well-defined set of personal values and ethics cannot be overstated. With this in mind, how do you intend to equip yourself with the necessary information and understanding to form your own position on important issues before voting? Additionally, what strategies do you have in mind to actively contribute within the chamber to ensure that decisions lead to impactful and beneficial outcomes for our communities?

I think my commitment to my community over 3 decades, shows that I am a dedicated  person, that can be trusted and get on and work with people.

One thing I have learnt in this role and one that is challenging for me, is the amount of reading involved to fulfil the commitment. So reading agendas and emails etc is very important but also taking information in from deputations, staff and fellow councillors helps to get your head around a lot of issues. Listening is vital in this role, listening to the community and staff. Also in meetings wait until you have heard from all sides before speaking for or against, as your opinion could change.

Question 4:

Both RCAT and Maranoa Regional Council (through the APLNG Liveability Fund) have jointly invested significant funds and time over the past 12 months to support regional liveability initiatives.  We are keen to hear your perspective on enhancing liveability and attracting and retaining a local skilled workforce. In your view, what are the key strategies or initiatives that our local council can undertake and/or support to improve the overall quality of life for residents, while also making our region more attractive to workers and ensuring they choose to live local and remain within our communities.

It has to be a joint effort, not only between RCAT and Council, all community groups should be involved across the shire. We need to work in parallel, so we aren’t going in different directions.

I think community and sporting groups play a big role in liveability for all of our communities, not just for local residents but for attracting people and keeping them in our region.

For example, a new doctor is interested in moving to one of smaller towns but his wife loves golf and that could be the deal breaker, so we need to support them as much as possible.

We need to have this spot on, as well as having good swimming pools (the free entry has been a huge success Mitchell Swimming Pool Oct22 – 60 admissions – Oct23 – 1360 admissions), parks, clean ammenities and tidy streets to make that important first impression.

It’s important for council to support these groups, so we can all work towards the common goal of attracting and retaining workers and their families.

We need to encourage town beautification and pride in our towns, the little 1 percenters is what people see, first impressions definitely count.

When we went around the shire for the community consultation for the Corporate Plan, these were the most common things that were bought up by residents.

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