LEADING FROM FRONT: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi. Picture: contributed
LEADING FROM FRONT: Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi. Picture: contributed

COUNCIL UPDATE: 10 things we learned from SDRC this week

SOUTHERN Downs councillors were looking to the future this week, with several plans and developments getting underway.

Water and better water security for residents was at the forefront of SDRC conversations, though new funding and developments surround the coronavirus were also discussed.

Check out the list below of the biggest news to come from council this week.

1. Water alliance formalised

The Southern Downs Regional Council voted unanimously to formalise a water alliance with Toowoomba Regional Council, Western Downs Regional Council, and Tenterfield Shire Council.

Mayor Vic Pennisi said the motion will only make a pre-existing partnership official and will aim to use the council’s common concerns to work toward long-term water security.

2. Mayor readies community for new restrictions

With the Southern Downs local government area to undergo new coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow, Mayor Vic Pennisi urged the community to pull together.

Earlier this week, a confirmed case of the virus was traced to two locations in Toowoomba, and limitations on private and indoor gatherings have now been extended to the Darling Downs Health region.

Ben Haddock, winner of qldwater award for work at Stanthorpe Water and Waste Water Treatment Plant.
Ben Haddock, winner of qldwater award for work at Stanthorpe Water and Waste Water Treatment Plant.

3. Young gun receives QLD award

This week, SDRC employee Ben Haddock was named qldwater/Water Industry Operators Association of Australia’s Queensland Young Operator of the Year.

The award came in recognition of the young achiever’s efforts at the Stanthorpe Water and Waste Water Treatment Plants, which kept the council and region at the forefront of drought management.

4. Mayor Vic Pennisi nominated for new water committee

Councillors also endorsed nominating Cr Pennisi as the SDRC representative on a new Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

The new forum will focus on the management and administration of the Federal Government’s updated Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan.

The outcome of Cr Pennisi’s nomination is yet to be announced.

5. Local Economic Recovery Program application

Residents could be set to benefit from a second round of the controversial rural water tank rebate, a new $1.9 million drag racing precinct, and more if a new funding application is successful.

The SDRC was one of 13 councils to apply for a cut of the $38.6 million Local Economic Recovery Program, designed to aid those communities most affected by last year’s bushfire disaster.

Council submitted seven potential projects, totalling just under $4.5 million, though are yet to receive an outcome.

Development plans for a water extraction plant at Cherrabah, Elbow Valley. Picture: contributed
Development plans for a water extraction plant at Cherrabah, Elbow Valley. Picture: contributed

6. Councillors lock horns over Cherrabah controversy

The controversial Cherrabah groundwater extraction project again divided the SDRC this week, this time regarding the mandatory widening of the main road to the facility.

To accommodate the increased traffic, Keoghs Rd must be widened to at least 5.5m in several places before extraction begins.

At the end of a lengthy debate on whether the roadworks should be undertaken in stages or all at once, the SDRC eventually voted to go ahead with the gradual process.

7. Road funding approved

Council’s application for Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements was approved by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

The SDRC will receive more than $850,000 to repair or rebuild roads across the region damaged by the heavy rain and flooding in February this year.

Council is yet to determine how the funding will be distributed.

8. Cambanoora Gorge ‘management’ could get underway

Upgrades to Condamine River Rd and Cambanoora Gorge were another potential project listed on the Local Economic Recovery Program application.

If successful, the SDRC could receive $150,000 to put towards ongoing maintenance and “management” of the area.

The often-contentious issue has strongly divided the community in the past, and Cr Pennisi stressed the importance of making a “well thought-out” and rational decision.

9. Squash club’s venue

The SDRC is set to approve new land for the Warwick Rose Squash Club after the group lost their tenure at the St Mary’s courts due to the service station development.

If approved, the squash club will relocate to a new home at Barnes Park.

10. Feral cat management

Council endorsed a submission made to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy’s inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia.

The SDRC is working towards the community consultation phase of deciding how to put the $174,000 grant into a cat management project.

Council heard all policy options were “on the table”, with one of the most controversial so far being Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley’s suggestion of a $50 cat bounty.



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