Councillor Profiles

Councillor Margaret de Wit, Brisbane City Council, Queensland

Q. How long have you been on Council?

I was first elected in 1997 and am now in my 14th year as a Councillor.

Q. Why did you become involved in Local Government?

In the early 1990s I decided to enter politics as I love working with and for people. I have diverse experience in the business and not for profit sectors and believed I had a significant contribution to make and the drive to do it if elected.

Q. What makes your Council area special or different?

Brisbane City Council is different from any other council in Australia. It represents 1.1 million residents and councillors are elected on a party political basis. Each of the 26 Ward councillors represent approximately 25,000 voters. The Lord Mayor is elected at large, and elections are held every four years.

Q. Tell us about your role as Council Chairman.

Until recently, I was the Chairman of Brisbane City Council.  This role can be compared to that of the Speaker of the House in State Parliament. 

Unlike other councils, the Lord Mayor does not chair meetings. I have now relinquished that role to take up the position of Chairman of Public and Active Transport.

Q. You are involved with a number of community organisations, tell us about these and how they contribute to your views as a Councillor?

I have always been actively involved with the Anglican Church and have seen the great community services all the churches provide – usually without recognition. 

Since being elected, I have founded one Catchment Group, and I was instrumental in the establishment of another two in the Pullenvale Ward, which I represent. 

I serve on the management committee of two of these organisations and have learnt so much from the dedicated volunteers who work for the benefit of our environment.  My work with these and many other local organisations spurs me on to continue to do all I can to support these groups and inform the wider community.

Q. What other issues are important to you?

Achieving sustainability in all aspects of Council operations to minimise our environmental footprint is also important to me.

The plight of the homeless, and those who are struggling with life, is another issue dear to my heart. Having previously worked for the Boystown organisation and as a volunteer with St Vincent de Paul, I have seen firsthand the impact that deprivation in all its forms has on people’s lives.    

Q. What innovative projects or policies is Council working on?

As the capital city in the fastest growing region in Australia, Brisbane City Council has successfully embarked on major infrastructure projects to address significant traffic congestion, which was not being addressed by State and Federal Governments.

In just a few years, a cross river tunnel has been constructed, and the first vehicular bridge in the inner City for more than 30 years was recently opened. This has been constructed and funded by Council. 

Tenders have just closed for the Northern Link Tunnel – another Council funded project.  These are projects on a scale never before undertaken by a council.

In 2006, the Lord Mayor introduced Homeless Connect – a one day program held several times a year to help the City’s homeless. With the support of volunteers and the public, we are able to provide meals, clothing, counselling, support, medical and other checks, and provide referrals for housing and other needs.

Q. Tell us about a memorable moment on Council?

Whenever I or the electorate decide it’s time for me to go, I will forever have so many memories of the wonderful people I have met and the knowledge I have gained. To have the opportunity to be a Councillor is a privilege I will always treasure.

Councillor DeWit can be contacted by email at pullenvale.ward@ecn.net.au

 

Mayor Peter Taylor, Toowoomba Regional Council, Queensland

Q. How long have you been on Council?  

I was elected in 2008 with 72 per cent of the vote as the first Mayor of the Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC). This followed the Queensland Government’s amalgamation of eight former councils, which included Toowoomba City.

Previously I was Mayor of the Jondaryan Shire Council, which is now part of the new entity.

TRC is the largest amalgamation, by number of councils merged, in Queensland.

Q. Why did you become involved in Local Government?  

I was concerned about local services in the area in which I lived, and after speaking about the issue at a town meeting, I was approached by two Councillors to consider nominating for election. I did this, winning a position by four votes.

Following the amalgamation, I was motivated to assist with the huge task of change management, and the community issues TRC faced in the transition from eight separate councils to a single new regional council.

Q. Tell us about your Local Government area.

Toowoomba, Australia’s largest inland regional city, is situated 127 kilometres west of Brisbane on top of the Great Dividing Range on the Darling Downs. It has very rich and diverse surrounding agricultural areas, a broad based strong local economy, and is a service centre for a large area to the west of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

TRC’s boundary spans 13,000 square kilometres, has 34 towns, a total population of approximately 160,000 people, and a growth rate of almost two per cent. 

There is an emerging energy sector known as the Surat Basin to our west, with coal mines, coal seam gas and power stations.

Health, education (including the University of Southern Queensland and a TAFE college), defence, agriculture and food processing, are significant sectors in our area.

Toowoomba is at the junction of the New England, Gore and Warrego Highways, with a significant new industry area under construction.

The Garden City is well known for the annual Carnival of Flowers held for two weeks during September. The surrounding region also hosts a number of festivals, shows and events throughout the year.

It is a very attractive area in which to live or visit.

Q. Community development is your passion. Tell us about how this developed and what particularly engages you with it. 

After a number of years as Mayor of a smaller council, there were many occasions where I undertook the role of a development officer to assist the community. I decided to formally study community development principles and theory to be able to undertake this work more professionally, and to determine if my practices were aligned with what others saw as the best way forward.

I strongly believe in the grassroots involvement of the community and I enjoy working with people to gain improvement.

Q. What other issues are important to you? 

New infrastructure is needed to support our future growth. This area needs major road and rail improvements. A Toowoomba Bypass road is urgently required to remove the National Highway from the city centre, where thousands of trucks drive through each day and have to navigate
16 sets of traffic lights, as well as an increasingly congested Toowoomba range crossing.

Q. What innovative projects or policies is your Council working on?  

A new water pipeline has been constructed to secure the long term future of Toowoomba’s water supply.

Full integration of all services is very important to gain efficiency following amalgamation. A new single planning scheme to replace eight existing schemes is due for completion by December 2011.

A CBD Masterplan has just been completed, and a major upgrade of the airport to gain regular passenger services is about to begin. Toowoomba has also been successful in hosting a number of new, high profile sporting events following the employment of a Sports/Tourism officer.

Q. Tell us about a specific success you have had in Local Government

Being part of a team that has successfully seen completion of two major water pipelines to secure Oakey and Toowoomba’s future.

Mayor Taylor can be contacted by email at peter.taylor@toowoombarc.qld.gov.au