Search on to fill development role

A NEW economic development officer with a salary up to $78,000 a year will be based in Warwick once appointed by the State Government.

Recruitment has started for the role, which falls under the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), with a spokesman yesterday saying the creation of the role was in no way related to the recent departure of Southern Downs Regional Council Warwick-based economic development officer (EDO) John Randall.

Mr Randall was dismissed from council in October for undisclosed reasons and an internal review may result in the role being scrapped.

The council's Stanthorpe-based EDO, Sarah Reeves - partner of Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell - last week went on maternity leave, with Stanthorpe businessman Justin Heaven temporarily appointed for up to a year.

The DEEDI spokesman confirmed the new State Government officer would be in a temporary position until December 2013, but said this was purely coincidental to the council movements.

He said the department had been working on the role "for many months" and it was in no way connected to Mr Randall's departure and non-replacement, with fears held locally that Warwick could miss out on new business opportunities.

"This is a new position that DEEDI has established to further support businesses in the Southern Downs region," the spokesman said.

"The position will work with businesses, industry groups and the council to support economic development throughout the region.

"Over the past decade the region has grown significantly and businesses have matured greatly.

"DEEDI recognises the potential of the region and has responded with this position."

He said it had been listed as a temporary role as ongoing funding could not be guaranteed past the end of 2013.

A council spokeswoman yesterday would neither confirm nor deny if mediation had taken place between the council and lawyers for Mr Randall, who it is understood has taken legal action over the termination of his council employment.

Mr Randall declined to comment yesterday, saying he was keen to see the matter resolved as soon as possible.

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