FNQROC Update - September 2013

By: Executive Officer, Darlene Irvine...

There is a mixed bag to report on this month!

Infrastructure Australia

We met with Michael Deegan from Infrastructure Australia.  It is interesting to note in order to keep their positions the staff in this department are required to add 2% to the GDP per year.  Infrastructure Australia is interested in those projects which not only will add 2% to the GDP but generally cost more than $100 million to establish.

While there were a number of short, sharp presentations to Michael covering a broad range of catalyst projects including the Yarrabah Wharf, Mareeba Airport etc, Cr Shannon complimented these by representing member Councils which were absent and presented the Archer Point Port proposal and the Tully Millstream Project to get an indication of interest for progression.

Planning

We submitted a mammoth submission on the Infrastructure Charges Review discussion paper – thank you Aletta from Cassowary Coast Regional Council!

If making a submission on the Single State Planning Policy and Infrastructure Charges review was not enough, the Minister has advised the department will prepare a new piece of legislation to replace the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 next year.  Cassowary Coast and Tablelands are represented on the LGAQ Planning Reform Reference Group which will actively inform the reform agenda as it emerges.

FNQROC Board Meeting and AGM

We held our AGM and Ordinary meeting in Cooktown on 12 August and a copy of FNQROC Annual report 2012/2013 can be found here.

Cr Bill Shannon was elected as Chair and Cr Peter Scott was elected as deputy Chair.

FNQRRTG Board

Following the FNQROC Board meeting and AGM we held the FNQRRTG Board meeting. You will note this is a new acronym – as a result of the new 'one bucket' initiative, the Roads Alliance has amended the group names to Regional Roads and Transport Groups (RRTG).

Cr Peter Scott was elected as Chair and Cr Bill Shannon was elected as deputy Chair.

It was disappointing after our efforts over the years to find out that while we have a 12.5% increase in our regional funding for 2014-2015 projects, the real effect with the inclusion of Croydon and Etheridge is a 9.9% decrease in funding.  While we will continue to make our point on this issue we will manage the program fairly and transparently across the region using our agreed methodology.  We also welcome the opportunity to learn and share in the experiences that Croydon and Etheridge will bring to the table – I am sure we will all get value from this new alliance.

Regional Round Table – Council Financial Sustainability – Townsville 14-15 August

FNQROC developed three briefs to take to this Round Table. A copy of these can be found here.

At the round table, the Minister released $500,000 of funding for projects which will assist in Councils' long term financial sustainability.  I have proposed a project to the Mayors and CEO's based on FNQROC's strategic directions 2012-2017.  Applications close on 15 October for this funding round.

Australian Water Association NQ conference

At the end of the August, I also presented at the AWA NQ conference on the initiatives being undertaken by FNQROC which include the Queensland Water Regional Alliance Program and joint procurement activities.

QWRAP

By the time you get this newsletter, I should have the long-awaited Stage 3 report identifying any alternative opportunities to better manage our urban water supplies.  I look forward to providing more detail on this next month.

Japanese charters

The annual JTB school excursions operated by Transaero Airlines in October will this year bring 1,400 Japanese high school students to the Atherton Tablelands to experience authentic Australian farm stays. This is the sixth consecutive year our region has hosted the school excursion and TTNQ hopes to increase the number of schools participating in the program from four to six in coming years. The students spend five days in the region bringing valuable tourism business to the Atherton Tablelands.

Regional Procurement - September 2013

By: Regional Procurement Coordinator, Steven Cosatto...

FNQROC Procurement Meeting 

The quarterly Regional Procurement Meeting was held at Cairns Regional Council on 2 August 2013 with a presentation by Brendan Macrae, Director of the Queensland Audit Office (QAO).  The presentation provided advice on:

• QAO role and processes;

• What happens with internal audit results;

• Fraud findings within the Queensland Government public sector;

• Highlighting of areas of concern - "red flags";

• Probity audit options, should Councils require them.

It is positive to see a state body being proactive in regional Queensland.  These types of presentations contribute greatly to the professional expertise of our group, and the benefits to the members' respective Councils cannot be measured.

I would like to take this opportunity to officially welcome Lee Rodgers from Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council to the Procurement Group. This was Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council's first attendance and we hope they are able to continue being part of the group.

Sodium Hypochlorite and Liquid Alum

Both of these Water and Waste arrangements underwent their first contract review recently.  The treatment coordinators from participating member Councils reviewed supplier performance, internal audits, the centralised incident register, work place health and safety and identified areas for improvement.  It was agreed that suppliers were currently meeting or exceeding Council expectations and recommended the existing arrangements with both suppliers be extended.

Register of Pre-Qualified Suppliers - road construction and maintenance services

As mentioned in previous newsletters, the reseal Project Steering Committee (PSC) established a Register of Pre-qualified Suppliers. It is pleasing to note this arrangement is already being utilised by some Councils with early supplier responses providing better than expected results, and certainly vindicating the additional effort made by the PSC during the project.

Bitumen Reseals

The FNQ 003 bitumen reseal program (see photographs below) has now been in operation for almost a month, with CRC northern and TRC northern districts being the first Councils involved. I have already been encouraged by the level of cooperation and communication between Councils.

reseal_one reseal_two reseal_three

Regional Projects - September 2013

By: Regional Projects Coordinator, Daniela Gambotto...

Street Lighting and Sustainability

When the Sustainability Group instructed me to calculate figures for the estimated savings which could be made by retrofitting the region's 4000+ luminaires that are close to, or at the end of their economic life, I had little idea what I would find.  My first discovery was that if we are to have those 'near end of life' luminaires (ie. those which are more than 15 years old) replaced with energy efficient equivalents (compact fluorescents), the savings to be made on energy consumption alone would be close to $250,000 across the region. This is close to half of what Councils are currently paying for the energy consumption on those 4000+ power-hungry mercury vapour luminaires.

Of greater concern are the estimated Alternative Control Service (ACS) charges which are currently subsidised by the State Government.  As mentioned in my report last month, it is only a matter of time before this subsidy is rescinded and Councils will again be liable to pay a portion, if not the full, ACS charge.  Using the street lighting data provided by Ergon Energy and current ACS charges, it is estimated Councils will be hit with a potential $750,000 bill for the full ACS charge on the 'near end of life' luminaires alone.  Apply that formula to the region's entire street lighting stock and the figure starts to creep into the millions.

In light of these figures, the need for a Service Level Agreement between Council and Ergon Energy could not be more pertinent. I have been following up with Ergon Energy staff and Line Maintenance Contractors to commence negotiations on this front. I've also followed up with the Chief Executive of Ergon Energy to ensure our concerns are being heard at both levels of the organisation. We will continue to apply pressure in this regard until some action is taken.

Regional Events

I finally pulled together a meeting of the Regional Events Strategy Group this month. Sponsorship appears to be a key issue for this group, with Councils previously competing against each other for sponsorship arrangements with event organisers. The resolution of this matter was the original reason for the establishment of this group and its Terms of Reference. The group has identified the need for a trigger to instigate discussions when it comes to cross boundary events. Whether this is through the development of a regional sponsorship policy or the insertion of wording within existing Council policy frameworks, we will be considering the best way to move this forward.

Promotion continues to be another key issue for this group, not only for the bigger regional events, but also for one-off events.  It appears there is no single agency that is responsible for promoting what is happening in the region.  The group has discussed different ways of enhancing this aspect of regional events and will continue to work with TTNQ to ensure we are utilising the best possible avenues to keep the public informed of what is happening and when.

Regional Infrastructure Projects Update - September 2013

By: Regional Infrastructure Projects Coordinator, Scott Britton...

Regional Road Group

Last month we received bad news in the form of a funding cut for the 2014/15 year. The Roads and Transport Alliance  Board (RTAB) has adopted a revised two-part funding distribution methodology as follows:

• 20% based upon number of councils in the Regional Roads and Transport Group (RRTG).

• 80% based upon the overall length of local government controlled roads in the RRTG.

Based on this methodology, funding to the FNQRRTG has been cut by 9.9% when compared to the level of funding available in the 2013/14 year. When previous funding cuts came into effect, many projects were either removed or deferred to the 2014/15 year. As a result of this further funding cut, the 2014/15 program is over-committed when compared to the revised allocation. The task for the Technical Committee will be to undertake a further round of deferrals/cuts to the program during this year's program development round in order to balance the program to the revised allocation.

We were fortunate to have a RTAB member present at the FNQRRTG meeting in Cooktown on 12 August.  The FNQRRTG was advised the new methodology was different to those which had been used in previous allocation rounds, and is based upon publicly available information.  For this round, the new Douglas and Mareeba Shire Councils were not included in the calculation of the 20% based on the number of Councils as they do not come into existence until 1 January 2014.  We have been advised that allocations would be revised to consider these Councils at some point in the future.  A timeframe for this adjustment has yet to be set by the RTAB to achieve this.

Asset Management

The IPWEA has in recent times promoted a series of workshops on their updated NAMS.PLUS2 Asset Management Plan tools and templates. These workshops have been promoted for each of the capital cities.  With the costs of travel included, attendance can be quite cost prohibitive. As such during August, a funding application was lodged with the Roads Alliance Board seeking up to $25,000 on a 50/50 basis to host a workshop locally in Cairns.  This will allow for up to 25 participants to attend the workshop. There has been strong interest around the region in this workshop. We have since been advised this funding application has been approved. The workshops have been scheduled for 29-31 October in Cairns.  Details of the final costs, with the subsidy factored in, will be provided to Councils in the coming days.

Regional Recycling Group

At the recent FNQROC Board meeting, issues surrounding the pending expiry of waste regulations and the relatively short timeframes for consultation on intended changes were discussed. A letter was subsequently sent the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection to express these concerns. The existing regulations have however since been further extended for a further 12 months while further review is undertaken.

Steven Cosatto and I will commence detailed discussions with each Council later this month as part the benchmarking process for potential regional steel processing arrangements.

Natural Asset Management - September 2013

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

Salvinia - a needle in a haystack

A dedicated group of weed managers from Lakeland Downs has received state-wide recognition for pulling off the remarkable feat of removing Salvinia, one of Australia's worst weeds, from more than 240 hectares of water supply and nine kilometres of waterway in southern Cape York. The group's efforts will protect the economically important irrigation water supply of Honey Dam.  It has also almost certainly saved Lakefield (Rinyirru), one of our most iconic wetland National Parks and a favourite barra fishing haunt for thousands, from this noxious floating pest.

For their efforts South Cape York Catchments were awarded the prestigious George N. Batianoff Award for Team Excellence in weed management. The biennial award hosted by the Weed Society of Queensland acknowledges teams delivering exceptional results in the world of weed management. Sue Marsh of SCYC was present at the 12th Queensland Weeds Symposium to receive the award and was typically humble in her acceptance on behalf of the landholders, school children and colleagues who delivered the project which has been in train since 2008.  If successful (and all indications are this is the case but you cannot be complacent with weeds) this is possibly the largest infestation of Salvinia ever eradicated in Australia.

Salvinia is a floating water weed (a fern actually) which many townies would be familiar with as it is widespread in many east coast catchments. It regularly flares up in water impoundments, smothering native vegetation, blocking creeks and choking out fish and other wildlife. It reproduces by dividing into smaller plants. The remarkable feat of removing hundreds of thousands of individual plants was brought about by a combination of herbicide, bio-control using weevils, manual removal and above all, hawk-eyed vigilance from a dedicated team.

Not one to rest on their laurels, no one is yet claiming absolute victory on Salvinia in Honey Dam just yet and SCYC will be actively monitoring the expansive site and keeping an eye on the rest on of the Cape for years to come.  We wish them all the very best and applaud their effort.

    BUG         salvinia    
Salvinia weevils (left) were just one of the many tools SCYC used to move Salvinia (right) on from Honey Dam

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

No it's a UAV actually!  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) have been widely adopted in military and scientific circles for over a decade.  Following the evolution of most technologies UAV have now burst into the civilian and industrial market in a spectacular way. Affordability and accessibility, which had been two of the major limiting factors restricting the uptake by common folk (including local governments) are now a thing of the past with highly capable and easy to operate platforms now well within our reach. The two functions of UAV's which will be of most interest to local governments are aerial inspection/survey and weed management.  In terms of cost benefit two factors weigh heavily in favour of unmanned versus manned helicopters/light aircraft. First is the cost per hour of airtime (two hours in a four seater helicopter will buy you your own remote imaging UAV); and second is staff safety both by reducing the amount of time staff spend in helicopters and having the ability to conduct detailed site inspections prior to sending in ground troops.

    UAV         UAV_2    
From the big to the small... UAV equipped with herbicide spray (image Yamaha Motor Co) and a hexacopter with remote imaging capability have real time and immediate application to natural asset and infrastructure management.

In terms of real application for local government the flexibility and rapid response UAV's can provide in disaster recovery operations, infrastructure inspections and collation of tailored aerial imagery address two key constraints we currently face; access to remote/inaccessible sites and independent collection of detailed information in a timescale suited to our operations.

We are planning a UAV field day as part of the next FNQ Pest Advisory Forum to demonstrate the capabilty of range of vehicles currently in use.....watch this space to find out more.

Upcoming dates:

Next FNQPAF & NAMAC - Location to be confirmed, November 21 & 22

More information on pest animals and weeds or want to sign up for meeting notices?

Go to the region's very own resource at the Far North Queensland Pest Advisory Forum Website www.fnqpaf.com.au 

All in the Line of Duty - September 2013

This month sees the first instalment of what we hope will be a regular article - All in the Line of Duty!

We would love to see the lighter, funnier side of our member Council executive staff and Mayors, and so encourage their assistants to contact us with any photographs or stories.

We kick off September with a photograph of Cairns Regional Council CEO Peter Tabulo during a recent fundraiser for Angel Flight.  Peter issued a challenge to Council's 400-plus Spence Street staff: dig deep for the charity and he would serve a sausage sizzle dressed in angel attire...and he did!

Angel Flight is a charity which coordinates non-emergency flights to help people in remote areas who need to travel extensive distances to reach medical services.  All flights are free and rely on the generosity of pilots who give their time and aircraft to carry patients to their destinations.

Local Government Management Australia (LGMA) threw its support behind Angel Flight's campaign to visit 44 towns in 42 council areas (including Tablelands Regional Council) over 17 days in a Foxbat aircraft. 

Peter_T

Angel in disguise!  Cairns CEO Peter Tabulo.