Take care, keep safe

It started as a quiet New Year with Covid still rearing its head over many of us.

Boulia has been very lucky to escape the ravages of other locations but no doubt Covid will show its face here too.

Council is ready to manage this when it arrives however, we are sure it will mean a change to the status quo and service delivery, so please take care and keep safe.

I started the year off feeling a little worried about the ‘naughty’ Elf showing its face around the Facebook pages so, I thought I would just try a little reverse psychology and picked up ‘Bluey’ on one of my trips.

He kept me company on my travels and got up to a few ‘tricks’ himself.

It turned out to be very popular and requested by many.

Great to have a little light-heartedness shared around.

OUTBACK WAY UPDATE

Great news – Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce attended the Opening of the Outback Gallery on the 21 February, and we have some positive news on the future funding on the Donohue Highway section in particular and how funding will be delivered into the future.

We have put a great deal of effort into explaining to the Federal Government (and anyone else who would listen) the challenges Boulia Shire faces by having our section of the road listed as a council road (which means effectively that the State was not able to allocate money onto this road).

It has been a long and difficult journey, but this month the tide has turned and we have a clear and secure path now for our future.

The Outback Way continues to be a focus not only for employment for our crews but for the future economic development of our shire and the RAPAD region. The strength of the group which forms the Outback Way lies in its cohesive support for one another – monthly meetings are part of this cement that keeps us going, separated by distance but not by goals.

At every opportunity, we will continue to put our case forward for funding to support the ongoing maintenance once it is sealed and to have the Queensland Government acknowledge that this road will be a major arterial road in Queensland and needs to be identified as a State Road.

Currently, the Donohue Highway section of the Outback Way is owned and maintained by Council which means a constant pull on our finances for maintenance and repairs.

I attended another Zoom meeting on 3 February, for the first draft of the Infrastructure Australia Stage 2 submission for the Outback Way.

Options 4 and 5 are to change to be sealed on the western corridor from Alice Springs and the Eastern corridor sealed from Alice Springs to Boulia and widen from Boulia to Winton.

Plus a blueprint of a brief plan of Boulia and our dreams and ideas of the development that would take place when the road is sealed.

WORLD CONTINUES TO ‘ZOOM’

I attended an LGAQ Zoom meeting on the 1 February with LGAQ presenting proposals for the stock routes on how we progress a number of local government issues #public corridor, #classification of route, #Woody Weeds & Pest animals, #Native title on the use of the stock route, just some of the topics raised.

A report will be presented to Council in February for decisions on how the stock routes may be funded into the future.

On 10 February attended Zoom meeting of the “Stock Route Management Working Group”

The RAPAD Zoom meeting on 4 Feb looked at the actions for Boulia for stock route funding which will happen at the May meeting in Longreach– deliberations on which options would we prefer for the stock Route funding.

9 February, a Zoom meeting with RAPAD councils looking over the Agenda of the LGAQ Policy Executive Agenda to Review items in the agenda of concerns to the RAPAD councils, Mayor Rob Dare Diamantina Shire Council is the executive director of our region.

On 20 February I flew with the Mayor of Winton across to Alice Springs to meet with Dep Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for the Outback Way official opening of the ‘Outdoor Art Gallery’ which encompassed the media release on future funding for the Outback Way.

Travelling back to Winton saw me head off to Windorah for the quarterly meeting of the RAPAD group of councils which covered issues on local road funding, water and sewerage projects, and our central west pest management meeting looking at the situation after the rain for pests and weed infestations and movement.

From Windorah to Charleville to meet with the Western Queensland Alliance of councils which has become a very strong advocacy group for over 23 councils in Western Queensland all facing the same difficulties – housing, sustainability, attraction and retention of staff, and the ever-present issue for our combined road networks.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE GRANTS

We received the welcome news that our allocation under the FA Grant would be increased but for some councils, this has meant a decrease as the amount of funding did not change.

To support the change Boulia has drafted a letter from our perspective as a remote rural council with an extremely small rate base (just over $1.3m pa) this recommended re-allocation will address the inequities in the distribution methodology and recognise the needs of smaller councils who are physically unable to increase rates and charges.

RAPAD and the seven member’s councils will be writing a letter to Minister Steven Miles fully supporting the changes to the Financial Assistance Grants.

Until the next time… Rick.