The new-look South Burnett Regional Council … Jane Erkens (Division 1), Linda Little (Division 2), Deputy Mayor Danita Potter (Division 3), Mayor Kathy Duff, Debbie Dennien (Division 4), Heath Sander (Division 5) and Ros Heit (Division 6)

April 4, 2024

The historic first meeting of the newly elected South Burnett Regional Council team was held before a packed public gallery in the Warren Truss Council Chambers in Kingaroy on Thursday morning.

It was standing room only as Mayor Kathy Duff and the six councillors – Cr Jane Erkens (Division 1), Cr Linda Little (Division 2), Cr Danita Potter (Division 3), Cr Debbie Dennien (Division 4), Cr Heath Sander (Division 5) and Cr Ros Heit (Division 6) – undertook their formal Declarations of Office from the lectern.

Cr Duff is the first woman to lead the amalgamated South Burnett Regional Council (or any of the pre-amalgamated shires of Nanango, Kingaroy, Wondai and Murgon).

She follows in the footsteps of Cr David Carter (2008-2012), Cr Wayne Kratzmann (2012-2016), Cr Keith Campbell (2016-2020) and Cr Brett Otto (2020-2024).

Mayor Elvie Sandow broke the glass ceiling in Cherbourg at the 2020 election but it has taken over a century for a woman to step into the leadership role in the adjoining South Burnett.

Ironically, the first woman elected to serve on any Queensland council was Dr Ellen Kent Hughes in Kingaroy in 1923.

Dr Kent Hughes, who died in 1979, would be stunned with the make-up of the 2024 South Burnett Regional Council which includes just one male councillor, Cr Sander.

* * *

A second historic moment at the post-election meeting was the announcement by Mayor Duff that councillors may consider adopting a “rotational basis” policy for the position of Deputy Mayor, with each serving about eight months in the role.

The possible order of service would be Cr Danita Potter, Cr Jane Erkens, Cr Ros Heit, Cr Deb Dennien, Cr Linda Little and Cr Heath Sander.

However, that decision is yet to be made.

As the election of a Deputy Mayor is mandatory at the first meeting after the quadrennial election, Mayor Duff called for nominations for Deputy Mayor.

Cr Heit nominated Cr Potter to fill the role of Deputy Mayor, seconded by Cr Erkens. This was passed unanimously.

* * *

Recently elected Cherbourg Mayor Bruce Simpson did the Welcome To Country at the post-election meeting.

Mayor Simpson congratulated Mayor Duff and her new team, and said he looked forward to strengthening the relationship between Cherbourg and the South Burnett Regional Council, and having “courageous conversations” about pressing issues across the region.

“We look forward to working with you and your team,” Mayor Simpson said.

* * *

Cr Kathy Duff chaired her first Council meeting as Mayor on Thursday morning

Mayor Duff congratulated the newly elected councillors in her address to the meeting (see below).

She said the recent election had seen the highest voter turnout in the region’s history.

“Our community voted for change and positivity, and they want a customer-focussed council that cares about our community,” she said.

She also congratulated unsuccessful mayoral candidates Gavin Jones, Kirstie Schumacher and Tom Wilson for their integrity throughout the election campaign.

“It costs time, money and countless hours to run for elected office and it places a huge burden on your families … you can all hold your heads high,” she said.

Mayor Duff also thanked former Mayor Brett Otto who, she said, had faced unprecedented challenges when he had taken charge in March 2020 (ie.the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).

She acknowledged the sacrifices which had been made by his family during his Council service.

Mayor Duff said the new Council would not shy away from the challenges of doing what’s best for the community, would listen to residents’ concerns and strive to serve them every day.

“Our focus this term is to deliver an effective, proactive Council that supports the entire region; a Council that spends the ratepayer dollar as if it were their own.”

Mayor Duff said the Council would be going “back to basics” to make rates more affordable; to fix the potholes; to cut red tape for businesses; and to restore community pride.

She also noted that water quality was an issue that rose to prominence during the election campaign, and promised to issue news updates and seek community feedback at every opportunity.

* * *

Appointments to the important Local Disaster Management Group were also decided at the post-election meeting.

Deputy Mayor Danita Potter will chair the South Burnett LDMG, with Cr Erkens as deputy chair.

* * *

The meeting also approved Council’s representatives on various Council committees and other organisations:

  • SBRC Audit Advisory Committee – Mayor Duff, Cr Heit
    Boondooma Homestead Management Advisory Committee – Mayor Duff, Cr Heit, Cr Sander
  • BIEDO – Cr Heit
  • South Burnett Community Police Consultative Committee – Cr Sander, Cr Erkens, Cr Dennien
  • Murgon Sports Association – Cr  Sander
  • Reconciliation Action Plan Committee – Mayor Duff, Cr Sander, Cr Erkens, Cr Dennien
  • South Burnett Community Consultative Committee (Health) – Deputy Mayor Potter, Cr Heit
  • South Burnett Community Network Committee (Interagency) – Deputy Mayor Potter, Cr Dennien, Cr Little
  • Traffic Advisory Committee – Cr Erkens, Cr Sander, Cr Little
  • WBBROC – Mayor Duff, Deputy Mayor Potter
  • Wide Bay Burnett Resource Group – Cr Dennien
  • Wide Bay Burnett Regional Road Transport Group – Mayor Duff, Deputy Mayor Potter
  • Wide Bay Burnett Regional Arts Services Network – Deputy Mayor Potter, Cr Little
  • BIEDO Sub Committee (Ag Network) – Mayor Duff, Cr Dennien
  • Disaster Recovery – Mayor Duff, Cr Little
  • South Burnett Suicide Prevention Working Group – Mayor Duff, Deputy Mayor Potter, Cr Dennien
  • Proston Sports Association – Cr  Sander
  • Murgon RSL Commemorative Committees – Cr Sander
  • Drive Inland – Cr Erkens
  • Ringsfield House Advisory Committee – Cr Erkens, Cr Little
  • Visit South Burnett – Cr Erkens
  • Brisbane Valley Heritage Trails – Cr Little
  • South Burnett Partnership for Kids -Deputy Mayor Potter
  • Local Level Alliance – Deputy Mayor Potter, Cr Dennien (proxy)

CEO Mark Pitt noted that WBBROC (the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils) was in the process of being re-established.

* * *

The next meeting of the South Burnett Regional Council will be held from 9:00am on Wednesday, April 24, in the Kingaroy Chambers.

Mayor Kathy Duff, right, with Cr Danita Potter who was elected Deputy Mayor at the post-election meeting … Cr Potter could be the first of a roster of Deputy Mayors during the four-year term, each serving eight months – if councillors adopt this as a policy
Kingaroy-based vocalist Julee-anne Bell sang the National Anthem; Cherbourg Mayor Bruce Simpson did the Welcome To Country and Fr Stanley Orji, from the Kingaroy/Nanango Catholic Parish, blessed the incoming council
South Burnett CEO Mark Pitt, South Burnett Mayor Kathy Duff, Cherbourg Mayor Bruce Simpson and Cherbourg CEO Chatur Zala
Fr Stanley Orji, CEO Mark Pitt, Cr Linda Little, Deputy Mayor Danita Potter, Mayor Kathy Duff, Cr Jane Erkens, Cr Ros Heit, Cr Debbie Dennien, Cr Heath Sander, Cherbourg Mayor Bruce Simpson and Cherbourg CEO Chatur Zala
Mayor Kathy Duff praised former Mayor Brett Otto during her first speech … Mayor Otto, who became ill last July, was unable to attend the first meeting of the new Council however his father, Trevor, was in attendance


2 Responses to "Historic Day For South Burnett"

  1. Thanks for an excellent coverage of the meeting. It certainly was an historic day for the South Burnett, and I was pleased to see the chamber packed with residents, to witness the occasion.

  2. It was great to see so many people come to the meeting in support of our new council.

    Amazing to think 100 years ago the first female councillor was elected and that was Kingaroy.

    I know I feel confident that our team are definitely committed to looking after our community and I’m looking forward to the job ahead.

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