Councillor profiles - Mayor Paul Antonio Toowoomba Regional City

Article image - Councillor profiles - Mayor Paul Antonio Toowoomba Regional City

The Toowoomba Region is a vibrant, welcoming area built on rich traditions matched by bold ambitions for a prosperous future. As a third-term Toowoomba Region mayor, I’m proud that our region is a destination of choice for new residents and private investors.

Toowoomba, a city of more than 100,000 people (169,000 in the Region: 2019 ABS) 700m above sea level, is nestled on the eastern escarpment of The Great Dividing Range, 125km west of Brisbane.

The Toowoomba region extends north, south and west across almost 13,000sq km incorporating large expanses of the fertile Darling Downs. We are among Australia’s most diverse agricultural areas with extensive cereal crop holdings, beef, pork and poultry production and a growing food processing base and plans for large-scale horticultural shed operations. 

Traditional agricultural production is being supplemented by Toowoomba city’s established reputation as a leading service centre and employer in the health, education and retail sectors. A surge in activity has broadened the economic base to include manufacturing, along with the transport, logistics and information
communication sectors.

40 years in local government 
In 2008, eight local government areas amalgamated to become Toowoomba Regional Council. I was elected Deputy Mayor of the new council, and have been Mayor since 2012.

Before this I was the Mayor of Millmerran Shire Council for eight years, having served continuously on Council since 1982.

I hold a Diploma of Agriculture from the former Queensland Agricultural College (now University of Queensland Gatton Campus), am a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and have held numerous board positions.

Away from my elected office responsibilities, I maintain a keen interest in the family farming operation west of Millmerran.

Freight crossroads
Toowoomba is located at the intersection of three significant road freight corridors, including the Warrego Highway, the Gore Highway and the New England Highway.

The Wellcamp Toowoomba Airport on the city’s western outskirts has been the hub for a weekly air freight service to Hong Kong since November 2016 and a service to Singapore started last year. 

The $1.6 billion Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, which offers a more efficient route for road transport operators, opened in September 2019, and early work has started on the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project. There are longer term plans for a fast passenger train services to Brisbane.

Water needed for growth
Improved water security is imperative for our growing region, especially if we are to fully leverage the opportunities for growth and economic activity that are slated for this area, particularly from private sector investors.

Late last year I led the formation of the Southern Queensland Inland and New South Wales Border Regional Water Alliance (SQINB-RWA, including Toowoomba Regional Council, Western Downs Regional Council, Southern Downs Regional Council, Goondiwindi Regional Council, Lockyer Valley Regional Council and Tenterfield Shire Council in New South Wales).  

The group’s priority is to map our current water situation and potential future water supply options. 

Water security is a national issue, and the new Alliance will work to advocate and achieve regional solutions. I am confident the new Alliance can replicate the same level of engagement and success as the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors, which I chair. (The group consists of member councils from Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Murweh, Balonne, Maranoa, Goondiwindi, Western Downs, Southern Downs and Toowoomba, representing one quarter of Queensland’s land area. It produces around 25 percent of the state’s cattle stock and 75 percent of its grain and pulse crops.)

SEQ City Deal
Similarly, I hope to see the Council of Mayors (South East Queensland), of which I am deputy chair, advancing its plans for infrastructure planning for this thriving part of Queensland. The combined population of the 11 member councils represents around a seventh of the nation’s population. 

I’m confident that the proposed SEQ City Deal will be realised. This new deal not only represents a powerful tool for post COVID-19 recovery, but is a great chance to address the population challenges facing South East Queensland in the coming decades.

The respective council groups back the Australian Local Government Association’s campaign calling for a fixed 1 percent share of Commonwealth tax revenue to aid our long-term financial planning.

Managing growth
Council’s role as a community builder means it has a responsibility to provide a framework for our community and enterprises to prosper for future generations. Growth does provide some challenges around congestion, a move to higher density living and demand for access to quality public spaces.

Council is in the process of preparing a new Planning Scheme, which is our key plan for the region’s future development and shapes many of our prized lifestyle attributes for the next 20 years.

The recent 10 year anniversary of the January 2011 floods, which tragically claimed three lives, highlighted
the extensive reconstruction and flood mitigation projects Council has completed.

The rebuilding, with the assistance of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, included more than 1800 projects valued at $247 million, including approximately $220 million in Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements funding.

I’m also very proud of the fact that Toowoomba in 2013 became the third local government in Queensland to be declared a Refugee Welcome Zone. This recognises the hard work, tolerance and compassion of many community organisations that have extended a friendly and supportive welcome to our new arrivals.