Councillor profiles - Mayor Anne Baker Isaac Regional Council

Article image - Councillor profiles - Mayor Anne Baker Isaac Regional Council

Isaac Region in Central Queensland is roughly the size of Tasmania, stretching from the Pacific coastline, to the coalfields of the Bowen Basin and the outback beyond.

Our 17 unique communities include the historic townships of Clermont and Nebo, and some of Australia’s youngest towns established in the 1970s and 80s to service the mining sector.

Finding the balance
We are known as the Resources Capital of Queensland, producing more than half of the state’s saleable coal from 26 active mines, generating more than half of the State’s Royalties revenue. We are also home to the State’s second largest beef cattle herd along with cropping, cane growing and aquaculture.

We have a growing renewables sector with 10 major solar farms either approved or under construction and approval for Australia’s largest wind farm, which is expected to commence construction this year.

Isaac region is demonstrating that a balance between mining, agriculture, renewables and the environments is not only possible, it’s achievable, it’s real and it’s happening right here. We are proud to say we are helping to energise the world as a region which feeds, powers and builds communities.

Council is currently investigating the feasibility of installing floating solar arrays at its water treatment plants to offset energy costs. Installing a floating array on the surface of a dam or reservoir not only removes the need to acquire land to build a solar farm, but also delivers other potential benefits.

Covering at least part of the surface area of the raw water storage would also reduce the loss of water through evaporation and the shade provided also reduces the potential for algal blooms.

Fair for all
I started in local government in 2007 as a councillor of the former Belyando Shire. Following council amalgamations in 2008, I was elected as a foundation councillor of the new Isaac Regional Council. I was popularly elected as Mayor in 2012 and re-elected unopposed for a second term as Mayor at the 2016 election.

For me, local government is ‘where it is at’. As the closest level of government to the community, we have a responsibility to drive value for money and to build our community’s future capacity, in everything we do.

The demands of representing a permanent population of more than 21,000 and an additional temporary population of approximately 10,500, spread across 58,000sq km, means I devote my energies to being a full-time Mayor.

In terms of funding allocation, it could be interpreted that those 10,500 non-resident workers do not exist. As a result, we continue to be at a significant financial disadvantage as a region in terms of service and infrastructure delivery.

Isaac Regional Council lobbied long and hard to bring about vital legislative change to recognise and address the unique challenges faced by resource communities, such as our region, whose fortunes are influenced by the cyclical nature of mining.

The outcome of this advocacy was Queensland’s Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act. The workforce management provisions of the Act, which prohibit the employment of a 100 percent fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce for major resources projects are just one important element of this legislation.

The provisions of the Act also require the potential social and economic impacts of a major project on nearby local communities – those within a 125km radius – to be appropriately considered and addressed.

This is about ensuring that communities which bear the impacts of major resources project also receive genuine benefit. Council is determined that current and future workers across a range of industries have the opportunity to live locally with their families and enjoy the enviable lifestyle our communities have to offer.

Extraordinary every day
Witnessing the pure people power which drives our region is the best part of being on Council. The communities of our region are filled with everyday people who do extraordinary things. As Mayor, I continue to be energised by the passion, spirit and resilience of the people of the Isaac.

The worst part is not having a win when putting our case to the State and Federal governments for a better deal for Isaac residents. It’s tough when you have both facts and fairness on your side but still miss out on funding for critical infrastructure, particularly when royalties from the region fund billions in infrastructure and services which city dwellers take for granted.

I’m determined to improve the liveability of our region and fight for our fair share from state and federal governments. We continue to advocate for change to funding methodologies to ensure resources communities like Isaac region, which are responsible for generating much of the nation’s wealth, receive a fair return in terms of infrastructure funding and improved services.