IN THE PIPELINE: Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs Stirling Hinchliffe with Southern Downs Regional Council staffers Rod Wylie and Chris Witney at Storm King Dam.
IN THE PIPELINE: Minister for Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs Stirling Hinchliffe with Southern Downs Regional Council staffers Rod Wylie and Chris Witney at Storm King Dam. Matthew Purcell

Major Downs works get ministerial seal of approval

QUEENSLAND'S local government minister Stirling Hinchcliffe visited the region yesterday and while he's the man that de-amalgamation proponents will need to convince, he wouldn't be drawn too much on the matter.

The focus of the minister's visit was to open a number of recently completed major works projects, funded by the Works for Queensland program and the Queensland Government Grants and Subsidies Program.

The minister spent the morning opening projects including:

. Fitzroy Street rehabilitation and stabilisation, Warwick.

. Kenilworth Street Upgrade, Warwick

. Schnitzerling Street Upgrade, Warwick.

. Connolly Dam to Morgan Park raw water pipeline, Warwick

. Connolly Dam to Morgan Park sewer works, Warwick

. Fromes Lane, Stanthorpe

After the formal proceedings were concluded, the minister turned the first sod on the Storm King Dam Pipeline Replacement project, connecting Storm King Dam to the Stanthorpe Water Treatment Plant.

Southern Downs mayor said the minister was pleased with progress in the region.

"He's very understanding that the Southern Downs council area is vast but with only a small number of ratepayers,” she said.

"He was very positive about the direction of the Southern Downs and very well informed about our direction and works being undertaken.

"He was most impressed by what all these completed projects mean for the regions in terms of growth, investment and employment.”

Works on Kenilworth St and Schnitzerling St mean the roadways can accommodate B-doubles, which means greater opportunity and expansion for the local businesses in those areas.

Cr Dobie said the minister was also complimentary about the council's decision to put the draft budget to community consultation.

"He explained that our method had been used as an example for other councils throughout Queensland,” she said.

"And it's making a difference at our end as well.

"This is the third time we've done this, the first time we got 50 submissions.

"It was even better last with some submissions being taken into account in the final budget and this year already we've had some very sophisticated responses showing the idea is working and people want that direct input into the process.”

Minister Hinchcliffe is also the minister for racing and multicultural affairs.

Mayor Dobie said the minister was keen to hear what steps the council were taking to entice more multicultural families and immigrants to the region.

"This is something we take very seriously, and with all the new business and investment in the region meaning more jobs we're very keen to find people to fill those jobs,” she said.

"So we're constantly looking at opportunities to involve our new Australians, those who don't necessarily want to live in the cities, to come here and find work.”

On the topic of de-amalgamation, the minister said he had discussed the matter with council.

"I've spoken to some other locals in Stanthorpe where it wasn't really the hot topic as far as they were concerned. But always happy to hear from people in the community,” the minister said.

"The community I know is very aware of what the process is to apply for the consideration. I understand that there is a petition that's out there at the moment. It's a petition to the parliament so for me to comment on it before we receive it would be a bit strange.

"The process is very clear, there is a set of criteria. Clearly when there was an application around de-amalgamation under the previous Newman Government it didn't meet the criteria then.” I look forward to anything when it comes forward through the process to see if it meets the criteria.”

Minister Hinchliffe believes efforts would be better placed elsewhere.

"I've got to say that my view is that communities have wasted too much time and energy on both amalgamation and de-amalgamation. Communities are just better off getting on with the process and dealing with the boundaries that exist,” he said.

My focus is on broader reforms to local government in response to issues triggered by the Belcarra Report undertaken by the CCC.

"My focus is on restoring the respect people have more generally for local government.

"As I say, there's a process in place which involves community consultation, community views being put (forward), it also involves measures of sustainability and it also involves making sure that anything that happens is practical going forward.