UPBEAT: Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie is excited about the prospects of the region in 2018.
UPBEAT: Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie is excited about the prospects of the region in 2018. Liana Turner

Future of the Southern Downs, next year and beyond

SPECIAL guests, future planning and government funding.

They are three key areas of the Southern Downs Regional Council's plans heading into 2018.

Mayor Tracy Dobie spoke to The Warwick Daily News about the goals of council for the upcoming year, and how they would be achieved with the help of local communities.

Future planning

One of the most important aspects as the SDRC approaches 2018 is the long-term goals of the region, and setting up the Southern Downs for the future.

"The biggest thing next year will be the planning scheme,” Cr Dobie said.

"It is the detail of the direction in which we go in our region.

"From our urban and rural planning perspectives, so what can build where, what business can go where, where our roads and infrastructure goes, that's all in the planning scheme, and we are doing a new one in 2018.

"Leading into that, we are writing a strategic document called Shaping Southern Downs and this is the key document that will give a strategic direction to the planning scheme.

"We will be putting that out for public consultation in the first couple of months of next year, and we are asking everyone in the community to come forward, and from a strategic perspective, ask what do you want for the future of this region.

"Not just for the Southern Downs, but for every component of the Southern Downs, from the regional centres to the district centres and smaller villages. What is it that you want for the next 10, 15 and 25 years for your region.”

Special guests

In 2017, SDRC welcomed Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, world boxing champion Jeff Horn and Senator Barnaby Joyce to Warwick, and Cr Dobie said bringing esteemed guests to the Southern Downs would continue.

"We're inviting these people here, they're coming, and they will leave here telling people how great this region is,” she said.

"It's about marketing our region, and what we have.

"We have some wonderful attributes, not just from a tourism perspective, but from a business perspective.

"We have some great businesses in this region that fly under the radar and don't talk about how great they are, and that's what we're doing.”

Lobbying MPs

Making sure State Member James Lister and Federal Member David Littleproud know what the Southern Downs region needs was another focus of Cr Dobie.

"We will continue to work with federal and state representatives in our region, because that is how we advocate and get the funding that we do, by showing our members at both levels what it is we are achieving in our region, and how we are growing and developing,” she said.

"Southern Downs is one of 77 councils in Queensland, and we've got to make sure our voice is heard, and what we want to get from the state and federal government.

"The only way to do that is by setting targets into the future.”

"Since amalgamation we've perhaps focused on small things, and as a result we've ended up in phenomenal debt, because you just try and respond to everything without having a plan.”

Managing assets

Cr Dobie said maintaining a balance between assets and future development was another key issue.

"It is council's role to deliver services through assets. A big part of the next two years and beyond is managing those assets effectively,” Cr Dobie said.

"That hasn't been done in the past very well. We now have asset management plans either finished or being developed.

"We finished the building asset management plan. There are 682 buildings council has to maintain on behalf of its ratepayers.

"Part of the future will be 'what buildings do you want to continue have standing in the Southern Downs. Do you want them all? Because if you do, this is what it is going to cost you as a ratepayer.”

Resolving debt

Debt and rates have been a topic on many people's lips, however Cr Dobie said the debt was in a manageable position to be able to plan for the future.

"I'm not worried about the debt any more. The debt was at one point about $33m. Unfortunately it was built by spending and operations, so we don't do that in this council any more, and this group of councillors is committed to not making unnecessary expenditures. It is very focused on setting and sticking to a budget,” she said.

"We won't grow the debt, but we aren't going to be ridiculous in trying to reduce it.

"I think the debt is manageable at about $22m at the moment. We'll continue to take about $2m off that each year.”



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