FNQROC Update - June 2014

By: Darlene Irvine, Executive Officer...

I am going to start with the relatively mundane (in comparison) activities I have been involved in over the past month.  I say 'in comparison' as I have just been to the most awesome (beware - there will be a prolific use of this word in the read more section) conference.  One that I very nearly did not attend.

May was a very hectic month again with the development of submissions.  Firstly we had the Sustainable Planning (Infrastructure Charges) and Other Legislation Bill which was released for consultation on 9 May with comments due on 16 May for implementation on 1 July 2014.  I debated putting in a submission given the perceived lack of consideration the State would give it but I wanted the region to have a voice none the less so I merged information from Cairns and Cassowary Coast Regional Councils (thank you!).  There a a few points I would like to identify which different departments may not be aware of:

  • The definition of Establishment Costs for existing infrastructure is the value of infrastructure as reflected in the Council's assets register (note: this does not take into consideration technology advancements etc), and
  • If Council does not adopt the 'fair value charges' the Council cannot access Royalties to the Region.  Note that many Councils in the region currently charge below this amount - Council can still resolve to discount this amount and be eligible for Royalties to the Region.

Mountain biking tourism

Now for the fun stuff.  Last week I attended the Velocity Global Conference in Adelaide.  The promotional material was sent to me by the FNQROC Chair about eight months ago.  I honestly looked for every reason not to go and I deleted the email, however over the ensuing months every argument against was eroded and I am thankful to have attended.  I have never attended a national let alone a global conference before and I went with mountain biking and connecting our tracks and trails foremost in mind.

Oh my gosh, there were 600 delegates from across the globe (I'm still impressed, and a little ashamed, for many of them English was their second language; and they did well!).  Over the four days there were 188 presenters (188!!!!!). The calibre of these presenters was also the best I have seen; New York Commissioner for Transport, Planning Department of San Francisco, Auckland Transport, Brisbane City Council, Albany Council, to name but a few.  It was an absolutely awesome conference and the best and cheapest I have been to in 13 years.  I am a little disappointed I did not know what I was in for as transport engineers and planners would have gained a lot from this conference (the transport engineer from Gladstone would have appreciated the support!).  As mentioned, I went there with mountain bike tourism in mind, I wanted to network, seek funding options and learn from others. To say my eyes were opened is an understatement.  In my read more section I'll expand on the following tip bits:-

  • Why are we counting and catering for how many car/vehicles we can transport rather than people on our infrastructure?
  • Livability
  • Increased economic development opportunities for street front shops
  • Maybe (I'm saying mine is) our focus is wrong for both cycling and mountain bike tourism
  • Perhaps we have isolated cycling and paths alone when our focus should be more on integrated transport options (not saying this happens in our region).

Had I have known the real scope and depth of presentations I would have loved to encourage more planners and traffic engineers to attend the conference.

This is my caveat before you read more.  Fundamentally the philosophy of FNQROC is local Council autonomy.  I respect the democratic process and decisions of Councils.  My comments and thoughts from the conference are in no way pointed to any Council; particularly when I talk about car parking...I am merely reflecting the experiences from across the globe.

Crowd_of_bikes Joan seven_steps
From left...Bicycles available for delegates to ride; CRC's Joan Crawford and her new cycle-sunnies; one of the slides expousing Seven Steps to Better Bike Tourism.
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Regional Projects - June 2014

By: Regional Projects Coordinator, Daniela Gambotto...

Cross Region Events

After much deliberation and review, the Best Practice Guidelines for Events in the FNQ Region have been endorsed by the FNQROC Board.  These guidelines are designed for use by both Council officers and event organisers and apply to events which cross more than two local government boundaries.  They are not intended to replace guidelines for individual Local Governments, nor do they hold any statutory weight.  They set out basic benchmarks for aspects of event organisation such as essential services, food permits, etc as well as key contacts in the region.  They are designed to ensure a certain standard is met for events which are held in our region, thus improving participants impressions of FNQ.  The guidelines are available on the FNQROC website.

In line with a more regional approach to events, Cairns Regional Council was approached by an organiser who wishes to establish a new event on the FNQ calendar.  As a result of the establishment of the FNQROC Regional Events Group, we and other relevant Local Governments were invited to participate in these initial discussions.  This proved to be a very successful approach as collectively we were able to discuss the pros and cons of hosting this events as well as details such as the course route and proposed stops.  Through these discussions, we are better able to influence the nature of the event and thus ensure that the benefits are better spread across the region.  Further to these talks, we will be meeting with another event organiser later this month for the same reason.  Thanks to Cairns Regional Council for involving us in these processes!

Street Lighting and Sustainability

With the end of the financial year fast approaching, so is the return of the Alternative Control Service (ACS) Charge for Councils' street lights.  As I have mentioned in my previous updates, the ACS has been wholly subsidised by the State Government under the Customer Service Obligation for the past two years.  However, come 1 July 2014, 10% of the ACS charge will be passed back to Councils.  For this region, we are looking at close to $550,000 in addition to your standard power charges for street lighting (which incidentally will also be going up by 13.6% on the 1 July 2014...but that's a whole other story!).

The ACS is calculated using a set fee per luminaire per year.  The number of luminaires is broken down by Council area and is currently based on data collected through the Ergon Energy audit two years ago.  As part of the audit process, Councils have been negotiating with TMR about the ownership of each individual street light, which as you can imagine is a tedious chore.  As I understand it, most of the FNQ Councils have not yet finalised their negotiations and Ergon Energy will have no choice but to charge Councils the ACS based on the old data sets.  It is therefore important that Councils are aware of what their street lighting fleet is made up of and that all ownership issues have been sorted out with TMR prior to the ACS pass through coming into effect.  It is unlikely that you will be reimbursed if this matter is not resolved before the next billing period.


Regional Infrastructure Projects Update - June 2014

By: Regional Infrastructure Projects Coordinator, Steven Cosatto...

Regional Asset Management Group (RAMG)

The Roads and Transport Alliance Project Team (RTAPT) workshop for the Road Asset Valuation (RAV) Toolbox has been confirmed for Friday 27 June (10am-3pm).  All Council officers who have accepted the invite are reminded to bring their own laptops.

From the last Asset Management meeting, it was evident there are conflicting opinions on two subjects:

1. Useful life of seals across the road hierarchy. ie 'Ideal' vs 'Reality' (identified renewal and maintenance programs vs. the financial juggling required during budget negotiations).

2. Does or should formation (roads) form part of the residual within pavement vs. formation being identified separately in its own category?

It is anticipated the RAV toolbox workshop with Graeme Jordon on 27 June will provide additional information to aid in this discussion.  It is evident the Ideal vs Reality discussion will have to occur if we are to progress the register.  It has been suggested that at our next meeting we have representatives from each opposing view so that some robust discussion can occur to allow us to come to an agreed consensus with some substantiation as to why, so we (all of us) can then convey to those not privy to the workshop.  Bearing in mind that just because data is in the regional register it does not mean that Councils are required to replicate that data for their own registers.

Date claimer: workshop Friday 27 June 2014 10-3pm, Cairns

Date claimer: next meeting Monday 7 July 2014 10-2pm, Cairns

Regional Waste Management Group (RWMG)

The latest meeting was held on Thursday 29 June at Cairns Regional Council on the morning of the Local Authority Waste Management Advisory Committee (LAWMAC) workshop.  As this is only the fourth meeting (second since de-amalgamations) it is encouraging to see the group beginning to gain traction and identify where this group fits between the activities of the greater LAWMAC group and individual Council projects.  Areas currently identified as potential projects include:

• Regional waste reduction and recycling strategy/action plan (legislated requirements)

• Resource/information sharing – Material Recovery Facilities

• Collective procurement.

Judging from the interaction amongst the group with the sharing of information from the last few meetings it is evident a need exists for a regional group.

Date claimer next meeting RWMG: Friday, 15 August 2014 9.30am to 12.30pm, Cairns.

Regional Procurement - June 2014

By: Regional Procurement Coordinator, Amanda Hancock...

Scrap Metal Recycling

The Regional Scrap Metal Project has progressed well during May with two Project Steering Committee meetings taking place during the month. The first priority of the group was to set the high level scope and objectives of the project which in itself could have been a challenge given the involvement of six member councils all with differing needs and priorities however, I am pleased to report that the project scope and objectives have now been agreed with the focus specifically on achieving acceptable volumes of scrap metal at the region's transfer stations whilst achieving certainty in terms of revenue. The second meeting was timed to coincide with the Regional Waste Management Committee meeting together with LAWMAC's quarterly regional meeting held in Cairns further details of which can be found in Steve's update. During this second meeting the group considered research data on similar existing regional arrangements and started to discuss the strategic options available and what would best suit our region. The effective management of scrap metal does present a number of challenges, the market being subject to considerable fluctuation in terms of price and logistics such as transportation costs which are further impacted by the geographical size of our region so there is much for the Committee to consider. As always, this time of the year is exceptionally busy due to budget and the end of financial year reporting and so with this in mind a workshop has been arranged in July to discuss further. It is hoped that after this workshop we will be in a position to finalise the appropriate tender documentation and begin engaging with potential contractors.

Bitumen Reseals/Asphalt Overlay

Discussions in relation to the Bitumen Reseal programme are progressing well and opportunities for a collective Asphalt Overlay programme are still being considered by the Project Steering Committee.


Regional Natural Asset Management - June 2014

By: Natural Asset Management Coordinator, Travis Sydes...

Yellow Crazy Ant baiting begins

Following on from the taskforce operation involving local Councils last month I can report that aerial and ground based baiting has now occurred with the first round of control on YCA infestations in Bentley Park and Edmonton.  An infestation also was discovered at Russet Park in Kuranda early in the year which also has been the site of control works in this first round of baiting.  Any Local Government staff member involved in outdoor work should get familiar with YCA and know who to contact if they detect them. To find out more on recent activities and to familiarise yourself with what you should do if you think you have Yellow Crazy Ants visit the website

Queensland Draft Environmental Offsets Regulation out for comment

The long awaited draft regulations in regard to environmental offsets are currently out for consultation.  

In a nutshell (and in the State's own words)...the primary objective of the Draft Environmental Offsets Regulation 2014 is the same as that of the new Bill — to counterbalance the significant residual impacts of particular activities on prescribed environmental matters through the use of environmental offsets.

It is proposed the objective be achieved under the regulations primarily by:

• prescribing an Environmental Offsets Policy to guide decisions under the Bill

• specifying national, State and local matters of environmental significance that may require an offset

• specifying activities which may require an environmental offset as a condition of approval

• specifying the method for calculating financial settlement offsets

• providing for different types of legally secured offset area

• providing for the amendment or revocation of environmental offset protection areas

• providing conflict resolution processes associated with decisions made under the Bill

• providing processes for recognising advanced offsets areas.

FNQROC will provide some comment to the FNQROC Regional Planners Group primarily in relation to preliminary work conducted in partnership with Terrain NRM in identifying Strategic Offset Investment Areas.  Submissions are due on 6 June (bless 'em).  Visit the website for more information. 

National Environmental Research Program (NERP)

With projects under the locally delivered NERP, Tropical Ecosystem Hub coming to fruition in either June or December this year it is time to begin having a closer look at the research outcomes and products and what they mean to Local Government. Over the next four months we will be running a series of articles on the research projects; and with investigations as diverse as better understanding the distribution and ecology of flying foxes; identifying relative social and economic values of the Wet Tropics WHA; to targeted searches for critically endangered frogs; there is something for everyone.  All in all the projects are focused on better understanding the unique values of our remarkable region and how we might best interact, manage and benefit from them into the future.  It will come as no surprise that the program has a strong focus on trends and conditions in the face of climate variability/change and what sort of action we may need to consider in terms of adaptation.

FNQROC is one of the end users engaged in the implementation group for the Tropical Ecosystems hub.  Part of our involvement in the program is a small project exploring ways to get the word out on some of the research underway in our backyards.


e-Atlas – an online resource for exploring Australia’s Tropical Land and Sea

To get us started looking at the products of the NERP we will take a brief look at the e-Atlas. The e-Atlas provides a map-based user interface to navigate through a wealth of current and past environmental research data covering the Great Barrier Reef, Wet Tropics and Torres Strait.  The e-Atlas also links to multiple other resources including GBRMPA, Atlas of Living Australia.  Projects within the NERP Tropical Ecosystem Hub are profiled on the atlas.

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All in the Line of Duty - June 2014

We have proof that the knowledge and skill contained within the sharp minds of the FNQROC team truly knows no bounds!


Just ask the competitors at a recent Cardiac Challenge Trivia Night hosted by a group of nurses who work at Cairns Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit!

Yes, that's right, the FNQROCkers (also known on this occasion as the aptly cardiac-related named "The Pacemakers") took out top honours on the night, answering correctly the majority of the questions with subjects such as Kids Trivia (for which we scored 10 out of 10) and Food Trivia (clearly we love our food as we scored 9 out of 10 in this field).  Unfortunately we only scored 2 out of 10 in "What Happened in the News This Week" which of course just happened to be the round during which we decided to use our double-the-points joker on!   And we still won!


We each came away with a great little bicycle trophy, one of which now adorns our FNQROC trophy shelf along with Local Buy, Roads Alliance and IPWEAQ awards!)

Well done team members - Sandra, Darlene, Steve and Mandy, with our partners and a few ring-ins!

TNQ20 Awards

The TNQ20 Business Excellence & Tropical Innovation Awards have been launched and organisers report more than 100 businesses have either nominated themselves or have been nominated by a client or peer to gain recognition for their business or innovative practices.

With a broad range of categories available, TNQ20 is attracting a diverse range of businesses from right the way across the TNQ area and the level of innovation and excellence that is being displayed is exciting.

Due to high level of interest, nominations have been extended until Friday 13 June.  Nominating is quick and easy and entering the awards is also a straightforward, online exercise.

Nominations are welcome from across the Far North and FNQROC is pleased to hear nominations have been received from Cassowary Coast, Tablelands and Cairns.

We encourage you to consider nomination your business or another business to be in the chance to win one of two $10,000 prizes.

For more information on the categories and program and to nominate, visit www.tnq20.com.au.