By: Darlene Irvine, Executive Officer...
Welcome back to a brand new year full of change, momentum, excitement and trepidation!
In FNQROC we have taken the opportunity while many Council staff take leave to prepare for our year ahead. While we have been doing this, we have also been working behind the scenes on existing projects and collaborative advocacy with FNQ&TS RDA, Advance Cairns, Terrain NRM and WTMA. The Coordinators will all update you on their activities.
On Tuesday 28 January, Amanda Hancock commenced with FNQROC as the new Regional Procurement Coordinator and Steven Cosatto takes over the role as Regional Infrastructure Project Coordinator (Regional Road & Transport, Asset Management, Waste Recycling and Regional Development Manual). Over the next few months the transition will occur and hopefully it will be seamless process. View the FNQROC Organisational Chart for more information.
A very warm welcome to Douglas Shire Council and Mareeba Shire Council, and the elected Mayors Julia Leu and Tom Gilmore. We look forward to working with them and the relevant Council staff.
On 19 December 2013 Allan Dale, Sonja Johnson (RDA) and I met with David Williamson (First Assistant Secretary) and Ben Dal Brio (Advisor) on the Northern Australia Taskforce. They briefed us on the process and sought some initial feedback on some of the issues to be addressed. It was really heartening to hear them comment on the amount of collaboration they were seeing in this region.
As a summary, the areas raised with case studies included:
• Land Tenure – fundamentally, we need to fix this issue once and for all. This was identified as an impediment to Indigenous economic development.
• EPBC – turnover of staff (Federally) having an impact on large scale development.
• Energy – from two fronts:
o The need for locally supplied energy:
* Commercial – business pays 100% of the cost which is significantly higher than those areas closer to the supply point. This region sees 50% transmission loss before it gets here which businesses need to pay for. We need to secure local supply.
* Residential – currently the State Government subsidises the cost of the transmission loss for residential properties. This is in the order of $750 million per year. This is not sustainable.
o Australian Energy Regulator – lack of consistency between the States in terms of cost and operational ability. This then links to the cost of energy and our ability to do things such as use LED's where Ergon Energy maintains the asset.
• Water security (storage) – the need to revisit additional dams.
• Integrated transport links – road, rail, sea and air.
• Road links:
o Bruce Highway
o Peninsula Developmental Road
o Cairns to Melbourne
o Cairns to Western Australia via Alice Springs
o Cairns to Darwin
• Biosecurity – from three fronts:
o Lack of long term vision/investment. Examples of programs are for Siam, Hymenachne, Yellow Crazy Ant etc.
o Lack of long term strategic vision and investment. As an example – ad hoc programs for short periods of time with little or no linkage to regionally determined strategic areas.
o Contestability of funding. The focus back to contestability has deteriorated the collaborative effort in this region which was supported by the old NHT program. We are now competing against each other and others from across the nation instead of other regions. This has resulted in significant funding being granted to areas which are not strategic and to organisations which are untested. Some discussion regarding a similar process to Regional Road Groups also was held.
• NDRRA – policy/guideline issues
• Location of Federal agencies out of Canberra into Northern Australia.
And, as a very last one liner as we were walking out the door – Mountain Biking!
A number of regional organisations will meet on 30 January to develop a collective submission signed off by all of us. Invitations to this meeting went to: FNQROC, FNQ&TS RDA, Advance Cairns, Gulf Suvannah Development, Terrain, RRRC, Cairns Chamber of Commerce and Cape York Sustainable Futures. The results of this meeting will be presented to the FNQROC Board (if not before via email).
While linked to the Northern Australia White Paper, there are a number of consultations occurring at both a Federal and State level in this arena.
On 15 January, Cummings Economics coordinated a meeting with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) (attendees were from the various regional organisations, Cairns and Mareeba Chambers, canegrowers etc). FNQROC funded the video conference and TAFE provided the facilities (thank you very much to Bill and Jennifer (Cummings) and TAFE!). This meeting was extremely beneficial for both this region and AER.
AER is currently seeking submissions on Phase One (preliminary framework and approach) for the Queensland electricity reset – distribution determination 2015-2020 (note: this is separate to the transmission determination which will commence in a year or two. The distribution costs are typically 50% of electricity costs. The focus of the preliminary framework and approach needs to be around the classification of the distribution services to be regulated and any gaps. Throughout the process there will be a number of opportunities to engage and provide input. Interesting to note, AER has developed consumer engagement guidelines and while they are not mandatory Ergon Energy are required to show how it engages with consumers. AER is interested in issues which Ergon Energy has not addressed in its submissions.
In terms of submissions, FNQROC will submit one focussed on street lighting. We also will work with FNQ&TS RDA and Advance Cairns on a submission focussed on those areas not related to street lighting.
If you love energy and can understand how it all breaks up, we would love to hear from you... There are a number of other energy initiatives with submissions also due in February and these include (thanks to FNQ&TS RDA):
• Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) – Retail Electricity Price Regulation in Regional Queensland – issues paper (due 28 February 2014)
• Department of Industry – Energy White Paper – Issues Paper (due 7 February)
On 4 December I represented the region at a forum coordinated by the Regional Development Australia Committees of Townsville and North West, FNQ&TS, Fitzroy and Central West, Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday and Darling Downs and South West. The focus was on our inland road routes and identifying if there are opportunities for common priorities, joint advocacy, and strategic collaboration. Not surprisingly, there were some common priority links (Cairns to Melbourne/Sydney, Cairns to WA via Alice Springs and Cairns to Darwin). Within our FNQ RRTG boundaries the Hann Highway is our missing link.
As a result of this forum an interim working group was developed with representatives from each RDA area. A copy of the Terms of Reference for the interim working group can be found here. RDA Townsville and NW will provide the secretariat.
Members of the Interim working group include:
- Cr Rick Britton, Mayor of Boulia Shire Council
- Cr Peter Maguire, Mayor of Central Highlands Regional Council
- Cr Butch Lenton, Mayor of Winton Shire Council
- Dave Burges, CEO of Quilpie Shire Council
- Ian Groves, AgForce, and
In early 2013, FNQROC engaged AEC Group Ltd to undertake a review of our urban water services to identify alternative mechanisms to manage our urban water supplies. Queensland had been identified in three Federal reviews as needing some water reform. As a result, the Department of Natural Resources and Water (DNR&W) provided some funding to the Water Directorate and LGAQ to investigate three pilot regions. This initial review is almost complete with a final draft and presentation to the FNQROC Board on 10 February. The Technical Committee will provide some firm recommendations for the Board to consider going forward.
I have commenced the process to review the Regional Development Manual. While I collect submissions at any time throughout the year, if they are to be included in Issue 6 I will need them by 28 February 2014.
The next FNQROC Board meeting will be held on Monday 10 February and it will be full of discussion which will include QWRAP and the Northern Australia White Paper.
And finally, for those that are interested, view the Board meeting dates for FNQROC, Advance Cairns, Terrain NRM and FNQ&TS RDA. We have endeavoured to ensure these meeting dates did not clash.