April 27, 2022
South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto has sent out a plea to candidates in the upcoming Federal Election to not forget the South Burnett.
“There have been plenty of funding and Budget announcements by Federal politicians in recent weeks but not a single word about the South Burnett,” the Mayor told reporters.
“I fear that a ‘safe seat attitude’ is seeing our area miss out.
“Today, I ask the Federal Government and candidates from all parts of the political spectrum to remember the South Burnett.”
Mayor Otto said he feared the region was being “taken for granted”.
“All candidates for the seats of Maranoa, Wide Bay and Flynn are being called upon by our Council to say what they will deliver for our region.”
The Mayor said Council had sent a list of the area’s critical needs – spelled out in Council’s Advocacy Action Plan – to all political parties.
“We are yet to see any response,” Mayor Otto said.
“This is frustrating. Our votes count as much as those in the leafy city suburbs but the campaign trail hardly ever reaches us out here.”
The Mayor said the South Burnett needs Federal funding for transport, water infrastructure, medical specialists and mental health programs.
“We deserve equal telecommunication services to that available in cities,” he said.
“The South Burnett is a low socio-economic region with massive issues around staggering rates of mental health (issues) and suicide, major water security problems, inadequate transport networks, mobile phone blackspots and no plan to transition our region for the imminent closure of the local coal-fired power station.”
He said there were opportunities, but they needed the support of government.
“The rural people of the South Burnett are all too often forgotten by government and, quite frankly, deserve a fair go.”
Key priorities of the Advocacy Action Plan include:
- Improved community and mental health services
- Increased agricultural water supply and reliability
- Continued Federal investment in major connecting freight routes to enable product to reach export markets via Bundaberg Port, Wellcamp Airport or Brisbane
- Increased funding by 10 per cent from Roads to Recovery and the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Programs
- Support for renewable energy projects, investment in the food manufacturing and processing sector and improve the usage of the Kingaroy Airport
- Transformation of Kingaroy into a “Smart Country Hub” with investment in QCN fibre, a purpose-sited ABC rebroadcast tower, and a minimum of two new mobile phone towers
Mayor Otto called for Federal resources to be allocated based on need rather than on politics.
“Since 1996, local government costs have increased over 400 per cent while the value of the Financial Assistance Grant from the Federal Government has fallen from 1 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue to just 0.55 per cent,” he said.
The Mayor invited Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “call in” on the South Burnett during his journeys across Queensland to have a conversation with Council and local industry leaders.
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Mayor Otto said the number one item on his wish list for the South Burnett was mental health.
“We have a number of infrastructure needs across the region, but I think we all understand that we have staggering rates of mental health issues across our region,” he said.
“The incidences of suicide in the South Burnett and our sister council of Cherbourg are well above what anyone could see as acceptable. They are increasing, not only with our rural men on farms but also with our young people.
“We have put to the Federal Government some 12 months ago a submission for a $3 million mental health program under their mental health plan. That involves a Headspace, a mobile team of low-intensity counsellors as well as a youth mental health hub.
“We have had no response at this point in time.”
Mayor Otto said he and three councillors travelled to Canberra to meet with David Coleman, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, but they were yet to hear back from him.
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Councillors voted at their General Meeting on Wednesday to submit an application to the Resources Communities Infrastructure Fund, managed by the State Government, for $6.1 million to construct a youth welfare and mental health hub on a greenfield site.
This would also incorporate a country university centre, similar to one that operates at St George.
Mayor Otto said Council was “turning its mind” to using the existing land it has in Pound Street, Kingaroy, as an option for the construction.
He said Pound Street – the site of the former Kingaroy Council Depot – had the potential to be multi-use, with commercial and residential areas as well as the youth welfare hub.
Mayor Otto said the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN had supported the application.
“If Council is successful, we’d be looking at providing the facility and we’d be looking to the agencies to deliver the services,” he said.