Councils push for action to redress population decline
POPULATION decline was at the forefront for all six councils represented at the Southwest Queensland Local Government Association meeting.
Delegates met in Charleville last Thursday to discuss issues affecting communities, including altering remote and rural tax zone, sustainability of local government, grant funding and investigating ways of bringing immigrant or refugee families to the region.
Chairman Richard Marsh said declining population was an issue all six member councils were experiencing.
"This is an issue we need to address and the SWQLGA will write to the relevant state and federal ministers outlining the population decline in rural and remote communities and seek a population campaign for rural and remote communities to embrace new settlement,” he said.
"There were a number of ways we can boost our population discussed, including concessional taxation to draw workers to our region and settlement of immigrants or refugees.
Bulloo mayor Tractor Ferguson said population drift and vegetation management were two big concerns for his shire.
"It is hard to get people to stop and consider living in our towns when they have an option to fly in, work here and then return to places like Toowoomba,” Cr Ferguson said.
"Bulloo Shire Council decided to package employment with Bulloo to encourage families to come and work in the shire to support our shire.
"If we can get them to move to our towns, it helps our schools and businesses but we need to find a way to get this to happen.
"It was good to hear (State Natural Resources) Minister (Anthony) Lynham talk about vegetation management and what was happening with that.
"I think he needs to get out here a bit more and talk to people and tell them what they can and can't do because that is part of living out here.
"If Lynham is willing to sit down and talk to people, people in the bush like things to be explained to them.”
It was also a historical moment for the meeting with two ministers attending - Dr Lynham and Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe.
Mr Hinchliffe said the meeting was a great opportunity for him and Dr Lynham to hear the issues important to delegates' communities.
"It reiterated to me how important the partnership between the Palaszczuk Government and the councils is in the region and right across the state,” he said.
"We discussed population issues and helping address population decline, looking at settlement and how we can assist and support migrants into the community and a range of issues around grants, reforms and other local government operations.”
Murweh Shire mayor Annie Liston said it was good to know the ministers were listening to their concerns and they would be the amplifiers for them.
"Some of the issues that have come up are sustainability for our local councils, as we are all working really hard together to do whatever we can to bring our councils forward and I am sure this meeting is another indication that, yes, we are all on the same page and all have the same issues,” she said.
Maranoa Regional Council mayor Tyson Golder highlighted the issues of service connection and taxation in rural and remote towns.
"We asked Telstra, who were at the meeting, on what they can do to provide better services and work with local government to come up with solutions, because it is not just one of our communities, it is all through local government we have towns with poor range,” Cr Golder said.
"It also affects visitors coming to our towns because we are in a connected world and they would like to have connection to their friends and family.
"To stop our population decline in remote and rural areas we need to alter the taxation zone which means we basically need a different taxation rate for remote areas because then that will really stop population decline and that is crucial for all of our councils.”