Local Government Association of Queensland

Article image - Local Government Association of Queensland President Margaret de Wit

President’s comment

The local government landscape in Queensland changed at the council elections on 19 March.

While voters in provincial centres and the state’s southeast in general stayed loyal to their leadership, electors in bush and Indigenous regions opted for change.

At the time of writing, the Local Government Association of Queensland is expecting about 38 new mayors to take office.

Fourteen of them are replacing mayors who retired from the sector and one of them replacing the late Councillor Steve Jones AM, the beloved mayor of Lockyer Valley who passed away during the election period.

The election gave us valuable insights. For starters, our larger councils are performing well in the eyes of the public; the LGAQ’s own Community Satisfaction Survey showed that.

Most mayors in provincial centres and southeast Queensland breezed home, some of them winning by enormous margins. Clearly, they are on the right track in the way they govern their cities, regions or shires.

It’s a different story inland, however. In rural and Indigenous shires, voters were unforgiving and this was reflected in the high turnover of mayors.

These areas have struggled in recent years, largely because of drought, and mayors are measured by the mettle they show in the face of such adversity; that is, how much funding and support they get from higher levels of government, how much their cash-strapped council can spare for works at budget time, how often he or she presses the flesh with the battlers.

Mayors in the bush and indigenous communities are true figureheads with open-ended job descriptions.

The election campaign was marred by a poor performance on election day by the Electoral Commission of Queensland and, much to our dismay, disgraceful behaviour by some politicians.

I and the LGAQ have had a lot to say, both in the media and to the leadership of both sides of politics, about the scurrilous attacks on the good name of local government, much of it under parliamentary privilege or using taxpayer resources.

We’ve assured newly elected members that the LGAQ will always defend our sphere of government against unfair and unwarranted attacks.

On a personal note, I am no longer an elected member, having retired at the declaration of the Brisbane City Council poll, but I remain the LGAQ’s President for a few more months.

It has been a great honour to serve the councils of Queensland as the first female President in the 120 year history of the Association.  
The staff of the LGAQ are an amazing group of people whose commitment and dedication has been an inspiration for me.  

Best wishes to everyone in local government for the future.  There really is no more important sphere of government for communities.