Councillor profiles - Bill Ludwig Mayor of Livingstone Shire Council

Article image - Councillor profiles - Bill Ludwig  Mayor of Livingstone Shire Council

Unlikely candidate
Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, Livingstone Shire encompasses the Capricorn Coast, an array of stunning islands including the Great Keppel group and an extended hinterland that boasts some of the most productive cattle breeding and tropical fruit producing areas in the State.  

I thought myself an unlikely candidate when asked by John Bowen, a former Livingstone mayor, to consider running for Council in 1997. At the time I was better known as Billy The Mountain, in my career as an entertainment entrepreneur and promoter specialising in touring major shows and organising events.  

At that stage, my only experience with Council had been in the role of Chairman and board member of the Capricorn Coast Tourist Organisation. When I asked John why he thought I should run he said Council needed ‘new blood’ and people with entrepreneurial drive and vision to ‘make things happen’. It took some convincing, but three months later my name was on the ballot paper as Bill Ludwig (Billy The Mountain) and I was elected. My first term as a Councillor was a lesson in managing frustration especially coming to terms with bureaucracy and organisational culture. Running for mayor in 2000 gave me the opportunity to start changing that culture and focus Council more strategically on advancing plans for the key infrastructure projects that would be vital to enable to the Shire to develop and grow.

Infrastructure ambitions
As Council became more outcome focused, l was able to turn my strategic focus onto how to position Council to secure the funding to implement an ambitious infrastructure program.

Over my first two terms as mayor, pro-active lobbying and innovative partnership proposals saw Council secure over $100 million in both State and Federal Government funding to deliver a raft of critical projects. Those projects included an $18 million sewerage treatment plant relocation and expansion, $21.5 million alternate pineapple and logging transport bypass route, $10 million Kinka Beach commuter link-road, $7.4 million Shoalwater Bay Army Training access road upgrades, $50 million water pipeline to the Fitzroy River to drought proof the Capricorn Coast urban water supply, and more than $10 million in foreshore and town centre revitalisation projects.

Amalgamation pain
When Queensland’s forced amalgamations saw Livingstone Shire merged with Rockhampton I elected to run as a divisional Councillor to keep options open for Livingstone to potentially de-amalgamate. The forced amalgamation in 2008 was a huge blow for our community. Stripped of our identity we had to deal with a Council and bigger bureaucracy that had no ownership or commitment to deliver on our plans for the future. In 2012 a change of State Government gave us the glimmer of hope that our community had been hoping for and, with exceptional community support and a hard-fought campaign, Livingstone eventually secured the right to de-amalgamate and reform our own Council in 2014. Re-establishing the new Livingstone Shire Council has presented significant challenges, including being required to meet all de-amalgamation costs as well as inheriting a disproportionate level of debt from the regional Council. It certainly wasn’t the fairest ‘divorce settlement’ financially and in the first 18 months we also had to deal with three declared major weather events including TC Marcia a Cat 5 cyclone. On the positive side the Shire has certainly moved forward and not looked back.

Future challenges
In just four years, Council has once again proactively secured more than $130 million in State and Federal funding for major projects including a $53 million foreshore redevelopment, purpose built Disaster Management and Training Centre, new Homemakers Precinct, two multi-sports complexes, strategic road and trunk infrastructure and a recent $25 million State Government commitment to connect water and power to facilitate major tourism developments on Great Keppel Island. Other Council initiatives include the development of Stages One and Two of a new 56-hectare business and industry precinct and ‘master-planning’ for a staged redevelopment of the old railway site in the Yeppoon CBD in partnership with Economic Development Queensland.
Now in my 21st year in local government, I am still proud to be at the helm of a progressive entrepreneurial Livingstone Shire Council that is looking to the future. However, when good weather forecasts and a gap in a busy work calendar coincide, I glady make time for important ‘marine reconnaissance’ duties and head over 100 kilometres offshore in my 6.6-metre Hydrofield to where mobile phones aren’t a distraction and the only challenge is landing the next big red emperor.