A proud and unwavering champion for Millmerran, the Darling Downs and the Toowoomba Region.

That is Paul Antonio’s assessment of his time as the Mayor of the Toowoomba Region and formerly the Millmerran Shire in the wake of his recent announcement that he is retiring after almost 42 years in local government.

As he prepares to relinquish the Mayoral chains on Friday (July 21, 2023), Mayor Antonio said he would remain a fierce, but far less visible promoter of his beloved Region.

“I’ll continue to praise the opportunities and the unparalleled lifestyle benefits we are fortunate to enjoy in this productive and beautiful area of southern Queensland. I realised this long before being elected and I’m more deeply convinced that this is the case now. I will happily return to a hands-on role in our family beef and cropping operation and enjoy the chance to travel in the future,” Mayor Antonio said.

“I’ve regarded the Mayoralty and my time as an elected representative as a rare honour to help improve community life by delivering services and facilities that people use daily.

“I have been privileged to represent my home district, and subsequently the Toowoomba Region, across an extraordinary era of development and change.

“I could not have foreseen how local government would evolve and the breadth of projects and services that local authorities deliver for residents, businesses and visitors. It has come a long way from the part-time duties required in my early days on the Millmerran Shire, to a seven-days-a-week vocation in one of the most vibrant Regions in Australia.”

After graduating with a Diploma in Agriculture from the Queensland Agricultural College (Gatton College), a life on the family farm seemed inevitable.

While the lure of the land has never diminished, it was matched early on by an equally strong desire to play an active role in Millmerran’s community life via sporting, church and other local groups.

“For better or worse, I set off on a life of community service, never contemplating that it could lead to a far larger role beyond my Millmerran home,” Mayor Antonio recounted.

“Following eight years as Mayor of Millmerran (after starting as a Councillor and then Deputy Mayor), I was elected to the first Toowoomba Regional Council following the Queensland Government’s amalgamation of eight local authorities in 2008. I was appointed Deputy Mayor in my first term and at the next election was successful in the Mayoral poll, a position I have held until now.

“My entire local government career has been based on a desire to serve the community and set the foundation for our Region’s future. That enduring motivation has guided me and served me well across the decades.

“Apart from my parents and immediate family, I gained valuable early insights from my formative Millmerran mentors, former Shire chairmen Viv Saal and George Ezzy. I’ve also enjoyed productive working relationships with former Millmerran Shire CEO Roy Flynn and current Toowoomba Regional Council CEO Brian Pidgeon, which has assisted me greatly.

mayorantonioretiresmillmerranshirewb“My first thought is to acknowledge and thank literally hundreds of people who have helped me from my earliest days as a young rural Councillor to my most recent years on Toowoomba Regional Council. My family has been a reliable source of encouragement and the perfect distraction during rare breaks.

“As Mayor, I have regarded one of my most important roles as being the chief advocate for promoting our Region’s greatest attributes to new residents, investors, business leaders and the higher levels of government.

“Aside from delivering major projects, planning and advocacy work it is the incredible mix of people I’ve met that has left a lasting impression. In my time I have worked with and seen the bravery and professionalism of our emergency services workers, hundreds of volunteers, business owners of big and small enterprises, school students and their teachers, refugees and migrants adjusting to new lives and dealt with senior religious figures, visiting international Mayors, Premiers and Prime Ministers.

“This work has taken me to all points in our Region, across Queensland, to Parliament House in Canberra and on visits to our Sister Cities in New Zealand, The Republic of Korea and Japan, plus other delegations to Paris (a UNESCO Peace conference, organised by Pure Land Learning College) and Council of Mayors South East Queensland trips to Canada and the United States.

“Across my life, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs have seen many technological, social and economic advances. Toowoomba has grown to become a major regional centre for health, education and commercial services that supports a vast area of southern and South West Queensland, plus northern News South Wales.

“By way of comparison, I contrast my early pony rides to school with being on the first international passenger flight from the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport to Shanghai, China in 2016.

“Our family felt a new degree of connectedness with a landline phone to the farm in my childhood. In recent times, I have participated in zoom calls between our Region’s school students and their counterparts in our Japanese Sister City of Takatsuki.

“There have been major advances to our Region’s transport infrastructure with the Toowoomba Bypass and the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport offering greater access for residents and visitors. Our leading agricultural produce and other goods can reach most parts of Australia in 24 hours or so and the airport offers a 12-hour flight to major Asian markets, with connecting flights to other continents.”

Mayor Antonio said he was proud of his role as a White Ribbon Ambassador and the Toowoomba campaign calling for the elimination of violence against women and children.

“I was surprised and honoured to receive the Toowoomba committee’s 2016 Paul Myatt Memorial award. The Mayoralty provides a chance to be the patron or a member of scores of charity, community and sporting organisations. This highlights the importance of all these sectors and their daily operations across our community,” he said.

“Another proud moment was signing the declaration officially listing Toowoomba as Queensland’s third Refugee Welcome Zone in 2013. Last month we hosted a 10-year anniversary service to honour the community groups and individuals who worked hard to achieve this goal.

“Today we are home to residents who hail from many parts of Africa, especially North and South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the latest arrivals from Afghanistan and Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and our Kurdish community.

“This event further highlighted why we should always count our blessings for our good fortune to live in this part of Queensland and Australia.

“I’m most positive that the groundwork laid by successive Councils has positioned the Region to seize opportunities for future success.

“I am most grateful to my many Council colleagues over the years, Council staff and community members who have supported me in any capacity. I value and appreciate your friendship and assistance.”

Local Government Association of Queensland leads praise

“Paul Antonio is a legend of the local government sector with his more than 40 years of commitment to his community and council,” Local Government Association of Queensland President and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said.

“From his first day in council to his last, Mayor Antonio has never flagged in his determination to help secure improvements for his community.

“His colleagues in the local government community all wish him well in this next chapter.”

“A stalwart of the local government sector – first in Millmerran then, following amalgamation, in Toowoomba Region – Cr Antonio has represented the interests of his community to all levels of government and industry,” Local Government Association of Queensland chief executive officer Alison Smith, pictured below with the Mayor, said.

“He led his community through significant natural disasters and their rebuild and recovery, as well as being part of the push to secure the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics and the associated infrastructure it could bring.

“I wish him well and thank him for his incredible commitment to the local government sector and to improving his community’s liveability.” 




Work on Millmerran’s 1981 Centenary celebrations led to fundraising to build the Yallambee aged care facility. It is an important town facility and employer with 60 beds that services the town and rural district.

Helping with the Shire’s work on the establishment of the Millmerran Power Station.

Toowoomba Region

Water security: While I was not involved directly in the negotiations with the state government to deliver the Wivenhoe pipeline, subsequent Councils and I, have successfully advocated for the upgrade of the Wivenhoe pump station. This reduces future flood risks at Wivenhoe Dam and will increase the pumping capacity of the pipeline. This has been a vital part of our water security. In more recent years, I have been dealing directly with the Queensland Minister for Water Glenn Butcher around future water sources and options. Council will continue to work with the state government on its plans for the Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline, which will see greater water security for our Region’s southern district towns.

Toowoomba Bypass: The Toowoomba Bypass opened in September 2019 after decades of campaigning and work by many individuals, Parliamentarians, interest groups and past Councils. During my time, Council ran high-profile campaigns to progress the final agreement between the three levels of government. A residents’ petition was tabled in the House of Representatives. Commonwealth and state governments agreed to funding arrangements.

The 43km Bypass connects the Warrego Highway at Helidon Spa to the Gore Highway at Athol in the west via Charlton, offering improved safety and cost savings for transport operators.

The crossing plays a crucial role for both interstate and intrastate freight transport, as well as opening opportunities for agricultural land and resource-rich regions to the west.

The link has been designed to cater for future growth in the Region’s transport network which will prove to be very far-sighted as the Toowoomba Trade Gateway (Charlton and Wellcamp) develops into a major intermodal logistics hub.

I was pleased to play a key role in negotiations that saw the main contractor agree to a local content use approaching 80%.

Central Highfields

I proposed a revised model where Council owned the land to guarantee the direction of future development for a town centre at Highfields. I acknowledge former Cr Chris Tait’s role in the negotiations for the purchase of the 20-hectare holding in 2017.

We are working to ensure Highfields’ evolution is well planned and delivers a range of suitable social, cultural and community infrastructure. We know population forecasts show Highfields could be home to an additional 7000 people in the next 10 to 15 years. The community-inspired vision is for mixed uses and recreation/open spaces for community use.

Disaster resilience, community awareness

While we can’t completely safeguard against extreme weather events, I’m confident that the Region has vastly improved infrastructure that will offer greater resilience to withstand future flooding and mitigate flood impacts.

Council’s top priority has been to improve public safety and upgrade our flood immunity and our awareness about preparing residents for inevitable future events, including fires and storms. It is impossible to forget the events of the 2010-11 floods, where three lives were lost in our Region.

The rebuilding in the Toowoomba Region included more than 1800 projects valued at $247 million, including approximately $220 million in NDRRA funding. (for flood events in 2011, 2013 and 2014). More than one million hours were worked on the main recovery program.

Apart from the massive reconstruction program and ongoing annual capital works, Council undertook a range of complementary projects covering land use planning, flood studies and mapping, overland flow mapping and emergency management planning.

There is more work to do to further safeguard the community. We are seeking external funding to upgrade the Neil Street culvert at Chalk Drive (part of our East Creek Masterplan Flood Mitigation Project).

We are starting the permanent reconstruction roadworks for the 2022 Flood Recovery Program.

Foundations for growth, community building

The Toowoomba Region is well positioned to capitalise on a decade-long run of enviable growth thanks to a robust and broad economic base. We are fortunate to have proactive private investors who are underpinning the Region’s growth by delivering major projects that diversify our economy and offer job opportunities. Toowoomba has a fantastic story and a positive vision to highlight.

Our City Centre Master Plan has been the catalyst for a range of public and private investments; including laneway development, public realm, parklands and public art. Few, if any, Australian regional centres can point to more than $850 million in private and public investment in their city centre over the past decade. This is a welcome sign of confidence.

Council has invested more than $100 million in Toowoomba civic projects.

The Toowoomba Region generated $11.6 billion in Gross Regional Product (GRP) in 2021/22 (*for the year ended June 30, 2022) and supported an estimated 90,183 jobs. This represented around 3.4% of the Queensland economy, making it the third largest regional city economy in Queensland.

Our Region is fortunate to have proactive private investors, who are underpinning the Region’s growth by delivering major projects that diversify our economy and offer varied job opportunities.

Planning for population, jobs growth

It’s important that we keep an eye on how our communities will look and develop in coming years. Council is undertaking one of its largest strategic projects, titled Toowoomba Region Futures, that will build a community vision for our Region’s growth and development for the next 30 years.

Our planning forecasts show the Toowoomba Region will be home to an additional 66,000 residents in the next 30 years and around 35,900 new jobs. This will require some 27,000 new dwellings in this time.

Our Growth Plan is the road map for managing how the community wants to see our area developed in the coming years. This will ensure we remain a destination of choice for new residents, business operators, investors and tourists.

Persistent and collaborative advocacy vital (CoMSEQ, DDSWQ Council of Mayors, TSBE)

Persistent and collaborative advocacy by local government will be needed to keep vital infrastructure projects and funding submissions to support growing communities in front of state and Commonwealth governments.

I have seen the benefits of collaboration in my role as Deputy chair of the Council of Mayors South East Queensland. The assembly of Mayors is the largest regional local government advocacy organisation and represents one in seven Australians who live in South East Queensland. I greatly admired the leadership and teamwork employed by former chair and Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Graham Quirk,(pictured,  right).

The organisation first proposed a regional bid for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics, which ultimately was successful.

The Mayors are advocating to address the area’s population challenges through strategic and coordinated infrastructure investment, in addition to looking after the environment, supporting our key industries, and promoting innovation and technology. Since 2018 we have advocated for fast rail improvements to create a 45-minute region among the members.

Plans for better transport connections will accelerate investment in infrastructure to service our growth and support the Games. I have been pressing the case for external funding to secure a Fast Rail service from Toowoomba via the growing western corridor to Brisbane.

mayorantonioretiresweb2The CoMSEQ model was the spur for the formation of the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors. While not a formal organisation, we meet three times a year with key figures from agricultural, health, education, telecommunication, industry, emergency services and community organisations.

The group has been proactive in pressing the case for improving rail infrastructure and freight services connecting our productive southern and western areas with domestic transfer hubs and export/import facilities at Toowoomba and Brisbane, seeking to overcome worker and housing shortages, plus raising issues around crime, waste management, better road and transport infrastructure links, water security and rural and remote health needs. The organisation represents the communities of the Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Murweh, Maranoa, Balonne, Western Downs, Goondiwindi, Southern Downs and Toowoomba regions and shires, covering an area the size of Sweden.

The group represents one-quarter of Queensland’s land area, carries around 25% of its cattle stock, and produces 75% of its grain and pulse crops.

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE)

I support the ongoing work of this independent Council subsidiary. With more than 520 corporate members, TSBE links our business community with opportunities across the Toowoomba, Western Downs and Maranoa regions. The body also attracts new businesses and investment and advocates to all levels of government. There are many opportunities arising from the infrastructure, construction and energy sectors, the agriculture, health and education sectors. Our wider economy is diversifying and there are many opportunities for skilled workers.

Empire Theatres

As a wholly owned subsidiary of Council, I am most thankful for the persistence of former Toowoomba city Council Mayor Ross Miller and his Councillors who progressed the rebirth of regional Australia’s best performing arts complex. The high praise from performers, assistance of the Friends of the Empire and the support of audiences underlines the value of this facility.

Community activities

I was pleased to help lead the process that led to our formal acknowledgement as a Refugee Welcome Zone in 2013. We were the third in Queensland. Council continues its community development role in this area with the major support providers such as Multicultural Australia and many other community organisations, especially CatholicCare and its work though its Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support arm (TRAMS), Anglicare, HumeRidge, YouBelong, and other supportive community groups. We work with community groups for Harmony Day activities and are the major sponsor of the successful Toowoomba International Street Fiesta, formerly the Toowoomba Languages and Cultures Festival.

I have taken great pride in presiding over Australian citizenship ceremonies which Council hosts on behalf of the Department of Immigration. Over the years some thousands of people from all corners of the world have taken out Australian citizenship.

Participating at other civic events such as Queensland Day, Australia Day, Anzac Day and special charity events is a rare honour to represent our residents. I have been a White Ribbon ambassador and supported all efforts to eliminate family and domestic violence.