Uncertain future concerns shire

Hannah Martin

MOMENTS before officiating at an Anzac Day ceremony, John Brent questioned whether it would be one of his last public appearances as Boonah Mayor. Cr Brent said the Queensland Government's recently announced Local Government Reform Program (LGRP) had left him as confused as the many locals who had quizzed him about the shire's future. In an attempt to quell speculation, he said there would be a public meeting on Tuesday, May 8, for council to share limited knowledge on the possibility of boundary changes and gauge true community sentiment on the issue. Although not opposed to reform, Cr Brent said he didn't believe amalgamation was best for the shire. He said the meeting was unlikely to change the outcome of the LGRP but believed it was important "to show them how wrong the decision is in principal". "We're fighting to retain our well-known community spirit and the character of our whole shire. It's not about elected representatives, it's about having a voice in whatever final position our area finds itself," Cr Brent said. "The council is the biggest employer in the Boonah Shire and I would question what amalgamation would mean for the future of local jobs. "The argument that you'll get better services if you're part of a bigger organisation is not borne out in fact. "This council has been in existence for more than 125 years, it has a very strong history. We won't know what we've got until we've lost it." Boonah council's chief executive officer Ian Flint was as equally uncertain of the shire's future and said he was disappointed the Size, Shape and Sustainability (SSS) review process had been terminated and its work considered ineffective; especially considering it had only just received ministerial approval last week. Mr Flint said the State Government had exaggerated to extremes the financial instability of local governments. "For the Boonah Shire, further to the SSS process was the creation of the Boonah Shire Futures Plan, which we still believe will play a vital part in our shire's future. The Futures Plan is the result of more than a year of work and community consultation, and highlights the shire's strengths and weaknesses, and outlines a sustainable path for the future," Mr Flint said. "The realisation amalgamations will be determined in such a tight timeframe and without referendums in the affected areas further highlights the enormity of the task asked of the (Local Government Reform) Commission."

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