Councillor profiles - Keith Campbell Mayor of South Burnett Regional Council
I’m very honoured to be the Mayor of the South Burnett Regional Council. The South Burnett is uniquely placed, sitting almost equal distance from Brisbane, Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Toowoomba and Wellcamp Airport as well as Fraser Coast and Bundaberg.
From a business perspective, South Burnett is a top class value-adding region. We now promote our accessibility to a variety of markets to attract new business to the region. And of course, our relatively close location to the aforementioned locations is an attractant for tourists and day visitors for people wanting to ‘Discover the South Burnett’ and explore the great Bunya Mountains, our two inland dams, wineries and great rural landscapes.
Pre council amalgamation, I was a councillor with the Kingaroy Shire Council for nine years. At amalgamation, I became the Deputy Mayor and served in this capacity for two terms. Even though I was quite satisfied as Deputy Mayor, following the announcement of the previous Mayor, Wayne Kratzmann’s decision not to stand again, the opportunity and invitation came to run as Mayor. I was successful against four other candidates.
Audits bring results
A number of initiatives introduced over the past four year term have reduced operation expenses – a return to half yearly rate notices, an energy audit and fuel rebate audit, staff reductions through voluntary redundancies and the overhaul of some work practices.
Of particular note has been finding a resolution to the dreadful condition of rural roads. I encouraged my fellow councillors to call in an external auditor to assess every aspect of the roads. The result revealed that in the past Council did not have an accurate assessment tool to understand the condition of our roads. This audit was a complete success. The roads budget was increased to accommodate a significant change to practices and approach to road repairs. I am very proud of this outcome and it stands as a clear success.
Learning the business
I do not regret for one minute the opportunity of having served for 17 years as a councillor before taking on the role of mayor. I used that time to learn about the business of local government and understand completely the connectedness of our many individual communities spread throughout the 8400 sq km of land mass and the absolute necessity to build strong relationships among the circle of influence with Government, both State and Federal. We service a population of some 33,000 residents. When I retired as General Manager of a large agricultural business headquartered in Kingaroy, with other branch locations throughout the South Burnett, the move into the amalgamated Council was a perfect fit, having serviced the area in terms of agriculture, the largest economic contributor to the South Burnett.
The role of mayor in many respects is very different from being a councillor. It presents new challenges in strength of leadership to develop a clear strategic direction of how to grow the economy of the region. One of the elements of my mayoral campaign in 2016 was to campaign for more water allocation. The specific purpose being to create an opportunity for our agriculturalists to use the fertile soils to produce new crops with a hoped for value added component, thereby leading to expanded and different agricultural production, creation of new businesses and the associated support industries to service new engineering, equipment and agronomy needs.
Water is the key
A more productive region offering new industry could absorb unemployment, create new state-of-the-art jobs and enliven urban growth. More water allocation is key to creating the impetus for growth. The pace of growth without more water will be slow. Water insecurity, even for our current businesses, limited irrigation usage and urban use, results in a problematic future unless we access more allocation. I have a very clear image of what the vision of more water represents for our entire economy and how the South Burnett can grow and will look as the next decade rolls forward.
The recent launch of the $2 million National Water Infrastructure Development Study for the South Burnett and our adjacent neighbours North Burnett, will identify water options that have the potential to unlock the door to economic growth and add to the social wellbeing and liveability of our communities.
Of course, water is the key, although this thrust has created a vital need to update our economic development strategy and compile an investment prospectus. Water is the most vital of our needs.
However, identifying transport corridors and condition of roads; availability of industrial land; encouraging development of adequate public and private health infrastructure to meet primary and secondary health needs; and working on blackspot mobile and data connectivity across the whole region are some of the other factors that our strategy addresses to ensure that the region provides a safe and enjoyable lifestyle for our residents.
My 21 year involvement in Local Government and particularly the last four years as Mayor, has been one of the most fulfilling of my working careers. I no longer have any other business interests to deal with. My wife is supportive of my involvements as are our adult sons and their families. I am a 24/7 Mayor and love it. I am renominating for the 2020 elections.