newcrsapril3webA commitment to address challenges and seize opportunities summarises the approach Toowoomba Region Mayor Geoff McDonald and fellow Councillors will adopt in the new quadrennial local government term.

Following today’s (April 3, 2024) swearing in ceremony for the elected representatives at the Annex, the Region’s 11 Councillors turned their attention to the post-election meeting of Council at City Hall for the appointment of the Deputy Mayor (see separate release). Cr Rebecca Vonhoff was appointed Deputy Mayor for the new term.

Mayor McDonald said he was grateful for the community support shown to him and the other 10 elected representatives.

“Toowoomba Regional Council is unique in comparison with many other local authorities across Queensland where there was substantial change in the elected members,” Mayor McDonald said.

“Our community has shown faith in the Councillors who stood for election and endorsed our two newcomers, Cr Gary Gardner and Cr Trevor Manteufel. Cr Edwina Farquhar also was elected for the first time. I acknowledge all today’s Councillors and everyone who showed the courage and commitment to put themselves forward for election.

“The first 100 days will be an important time for the new Council team. It will be a formative time where we need to work positively as a group of elected representatives for the good of our community and the entire Council organisation that will support our efforts. We must never lose sight of this objective.

“I believe three guiding principles will set us up to achieve the best results for our community.

“As Councillors, we need to be financially astute, community-minded and people-focused in all our deliberations.

“We all heard the refrain during the election campaign that the community must be listened to across the entire Region. We must forge better connections with our community members.

“Councillors in this new term have an opportunity to explore a new approach in this area to improve links across the Region. This will be a key shift in our dealings across the next four years.

“We are in the final phase of our Budget planning ahead of its adoption in June. We need to work more intensively than ever on the key priorities for our community.

“It is vital for everyone to get up to speed with Council’s financial position and how we best deliver services and capital projects for our growing community.

“Council will be delivering several multi-generational projects in this four-year term. Top of the list is the $270 million, State Government-mandated Cressbrook Dam Safety Improvement Program, along with other major water security projects.

“We must also deliver the Flood Recovery Program works, which are valued at almost $300 million (with the assistance of joint funding from the Australian Government and Queensland Government under the Disaster Relief and Recovery Funding Arrangements).

“Our longer-term strategic work will see us finalise a new Planning Scheme that will set the platform for future growth and job opportunities. There will be further opportunities for community consultation across the Region.

“Maintaining our sound financial position is an overarching theme that must be top of our minds. This will ensure Council can pay its bills and meet our communities’ service expectations.

“Local government remains the poor cousin of the two higher levels of government. It is a continual source of frustration that local government receives two-and-a-half cents in every dollar collected through the tax system. For this reason, it will be a high priority to continue our advocacy to the state and federal governments to ensure we press for a fair share of funding to service our growing communities.

“We pledge to start work immediately to repay the faith shown in us by the Region’s electors. It is an honour to serve the community that we are proud to call home.

“Each of us recognises the responsibility that comes with our office. Councillors’ strategic work cannot be implemented without the diverse skills and dedication of our operational workforce. We greatly appreciate this commitment to serving fellow residents.

“We must not lose sight of our good fortune to live in a beautiful and bountiful part of Australia. The Toowoomba Region is blessed with a magnificent lifestyle, attractive parks, gardens and reserves and varied employment opportunities across our diverse economy, including agriculture, manufacturing, defence, health, education, retail and other sectors.

“Our motto of Rich Traditions and Bold Ambitions reminds us that the Toowoomba Region remains the best place to live, learn, work, play and raise a family.”

Mayor McDonald congratulated his fellow Councillors and paid tribute to the families and friends who supported them, including his own extended family, plus the wider community for placing their trust in the new Council team.

“I am proud to serve with experienced Councillors and new local government representatives,” Mayor McDonald said.

“It is especially noteworthy to acknowledge that Cr Carol Taylor and Cr Bill Cahill have served on Toowoomba Regional Council since its formation in March 2008. Cr Taylor was elected to the former Cambooya Shire Council in 2000 and served as Cambooya Shire Mayor from 2004 to 2008, while Cr Cahill had previously served a term on the former Crows Nest Shire.

Council today endorsed a recommendation to review the existing committee structure and the allocation of Councillor portfolio responsibilities. A report will be prepared for Council’s consideration at the May round of meetings.

Mayor McDonald today was appointed chair of the Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG), with Deputy Mayor Cr Rebecca Vonhoff appointed LDMG Deputy chair. Cr Carol Taylor and Cr Melissa Taylor also were appointed to the LDMG. Other appointments for advisory committees, community groups, industry bodies and external committees will be finalised at a future meeting.

Caption: The new Toowoomba Regional Council representatives (back from left) Cr Tim McMahon, Cr Gary Gardner, Cr Trevor Manteufel, Cr Kerry Shine, (front from left) Cr James O’Shea, Cr Edwina Farquhar, Cr Carol Taylor, Toowoomba Region Mayor Cr Geoff McDonald, Cr Melissa Taylor, Deputy Mayor Cr Rebecca Vonhoff and Cr Bill Cahill following the swearing in ceremony at the Annex.

Below: Toowoomba Region Mayor Cr Geoff McDonald (left) with Toowoomba Regional Council CEO Brian Pidgeon at City Hall.

Audio file: Mayor Geoff McDonald: