Decentralise Queensland? No worries, says expert

August 2, 2014 – 12:00AM

Kim Stephens

Journalist

Strong local governments, such as those on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, will making decentralising the state easier, according to an expert.

Strong local governments, such as those on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, will making decentralising the state easier, according to an expert. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

Doubling the number of people living in regional Queensland’s by 2044 is completely achievable, according to a leading population expert who says the state has evolved differently to its southern counterparts.

Chris Johnson, the Sydney-based chief executive of Urban Taskforce Australia, said just half of Queensland’s population lived in its Brisbane. In comparison, 75 per cent of Victorians call Melbourne home and 64 per cent of New South Wales residents choose to live in Sydney.

Doubling the population outside the Sunshine State’s southeast is a key target of the Queensland Plan, released by Premier Campbell Newman on Thursday.

Mr Johnson said the increasing size of the state’s regional centres, such as the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, meant governance in Queensland was vastly different to that in southern states.

“Queensland, for various reasons, has bigger governments than NSW and Victoria,” he said.

“Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast all have bigger structures for local government, which means greater authority with those areas.”

“I think over time a stronger regional government structure has evolved and they are more identifiable in their locations.”

Regional councils will be key to Queensland Plan’s success, Mr Newman said.

Local Government Association of Queensland president Margaret de Wit said while there were challenges ahead in attracting people to the regions, the plan provided many councils with direction.

“It will be a very big challenge but this is where the local communities can say, ‘what can we do out here that can attract people. What opportunities are there?'” she said.

“Be it resources or tourism, they can look at what opportunities there are and that’s what I’m seeing already. In some places councils can see an opportunity for tourism and are already working on that themselves.

“That’s why the Queensland Plan will be a boost for those people.

“It’s not just motherhood statements that sit on a shelf but it gives direction.”

Cr de Wit said it was important to remember the Queensland Plan was a 30-year strategy.

She said the ambassadorial council announced as part of the plan would also prove invaluable for regional councils.

“Country people are so innovative in so many ways,” she said. “They get off their backsides and do things and they will seize opportunities.

“Councils will have back-up from the ambassadorial council but it’s going to take a while before you start to see anything through their own corporate plans.

“A lot of councils have their own ideas and visions and they might come up with some different ways of doing things, but there is a lot of enthusiasm for the plan from local government and they have that enthusiasm there in spite of the fact they are doing so tough in so many areas.

“But they are so resilient.”

Source : The Brisbane Times

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