Looking at the new council and the challenges ahead

By Granite Belt Sustainability Action Network

The recent local government elections have delivered a totally new local political landscape on the Southern Downs.

Melissa Hamilton won an emphatic victory over incumbent mayor Vic Pennisi, and the new council will be dominated by new councillors and, possibly for the first time, the majority of councillors will be women. They also look like they are younger on average than previous councils, indicating a generational shift.

Half the new councillors and the mayor completed GBSAN’s sustainability survey which is encouraging. The survey webpage was well utilized by voters with over 1200 hits registered during the campaign. The survey can be found at www.gbsan.org.au/sdrc-election.

The new election has presented the Southern Downs Regional Council with the opportunity to invest in projects and programmes that will improve the Region’s quality of life, protect the environment and create employment opportunities.

Many, such as those dealing with the region’s chronic waste challenge, will also put downward pressure on rates. Others, such as a focus on positioning the Granite Belt and the Southern Downs as a nature-based tourism destination, could see a major economic boost in terms of job creation and investment, particularly in the lead up to the 2032 Olympics.

A clear message from virtually all candidates was the need to deliver water security to the region. This is a complex issue that requires an inclusive, transparent and data driven process free of ideology and biases toward various sectors.

Water is everyone’s business and investment decisions must be informed by longer-term local demographic and economic trends so that any investment in infrastructure is aligned with community needs.

Building consensus around sustainable development opportunities is key to their success. GBSAN for its part will be engaging all new councilors, the mayor and other important stakeholders such as the chambers of commerce and local industry associations.

GBSAN is optimistic that we can build broad support for a range of programmes and development opportunities that position the Southern Downs as a progressive, forward thinking community that takes advantage of new ideas and technologies that will help us deal with the challenges ahead.