Mayor looks back on Gladstone’s big year
2017 was an eventful year for Gladstone, which was still recovering from the Bechtel boom, but managed to punch above its weight when it came to hosting a range of events and racking up some solid achievements.
We spoke to Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett about the year that was: the highlights, the lowlights, and what he expects for the region in the future.
2017 HIGHLIGHTS |
NRL confirms Gladstone will host a rugby league game
The NRL confirmed in October Gladstone was locked in to host this year's Round 5 clash between the Gold Coast Titans and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Marley Brown Oval.
"The biggest (highlight of 2017) would be the announcement that we had the NRL game," Cr Burnett said.
"I worked on that personally for many many months.
"There was a lot of excitement learning that we could have a football game in Gladstone - that's pretty special.
"We've been successful with a lot of grant funding applications."
Gladstone hosts the LGAQ Conference
Gladstone hosted the three-day Local Government Association of Queensland conference last year, with mayors, councillors and chief executives from across the state descending on the city.
Cr Burnett said the event was "special", and was the first held in Gladstone for 30 years.
"The last time they hosted it here, people were billeted," he said.
"The feedback (was) overwhelming and we're keen to make it happen again.
"They were so impressed with the venue, the staff and the location - it's like a village with everything being so close.
"It just works so well that they're going to invite others to host their conferences here."
Gladstone Area Water Board dividends returned
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced last February she would honour a promise made ahead of the 2016 State Budget to return half of the dividends paid by the Gladstone Area Water Board to the council, totalling $6.4 million.
Cr Burnett called this 2017's "very first highlight", but he's obviously still very pleased.
"That's the highlight of the year, getting the dividends back," he said.
The council signs agreement on intergenerational campus
CQUniversity's Derby St campus is to be converted into an aged care facility with 60 beds, after an agreement between Gladstone Regional Council, CQUniversity and Mercy Health and Aged Care Central Queensland was reached in April.
"That was huge, to sign the memorandum of understanding with Mercy and CQUniversity. My thanks to Ken O'Dowd," Cr Burnett said.
"That's going to free up the TAFE site with the construction of the new CQUniversity building at the campus.
"I want to take that further, our relationship with Mercy and CQUniversity."
2017 LOWLIGHTS |
Region feels some tough losses
"We did lose some very good people, like (Miriam Vale sergeant) Owen Harms," Cr Burnett said.
"We lost some very good people and that was very sad.
"Those are the lows of the year - when people pass away or take their lives. We've had some tragedies and accidents."
A tough financial environment for everyone
"The other low parts of the year are when you see local businesses close down, and when you see locals lose their homes because they've lost work and can't pay their mortgage," Cr Burnett said.
"I'm doing my best to try to control that, but there's only so much the council can do.
"That's why we want to support the economy so those people can put food on the table and get employment.
"We've introduced a hardship policy too, to help people pay off their rates if they can't, and split the rates bills to half-yearly water bills."
2018 HOPES |
Gladstone Regional Council will get new management
"(This) year we have new senior management starting... in January and February," Cr Burnett said.
"It's a new council structure to lead our council into the future - we're looking at ways to do things differently.
"The community voted overwhelmingly for change and we've done that gradually.
"The new general managers will lead the council in that new direction very well."
Queen's Baton Relay
One of the most iconic symbols of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Queen's Baton Relay, will make its way through the Gladstone Region in March.
"That's exciting in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games," Cr Burnett said.
A special Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race celebration
"It is the 70th Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race which is very exciting," Cr Burnett said.
"We livestreamed that last year (and) we will do that again - including the multihull.
"We have a partnership with Brisbane City Council and have allocated $50,000 towards the event too, towards marketing the event and making sure everything is run very smoothly."
Still planning for the future
The council would continue to invest in the local economy, Cr Burnett said.
"It's about building capacity in our local businesses - like the vendor panel to apply for council jobs," he said.
"We invite businesses in to the GECC twice a year to give businesses the information they need to apply for council tenders and jobs.
"Get ready Gladstone, because I don't just want us to support business with our local preference policy, I want to build their capacity so they can tender and apply for jobs outside Gladstone.
"I want them to go to Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and tender for jobs up there too.
"Gladstone region businesses are considered leaders in all fields. Agnes Water and Miriam Vale are included in that."
Cr Burnett said he had a "fantastic team, a united team" of councillors with him.
"We're all very passionate about supporting the local economy and know how tough the struggles are for the community when businesses close down," he said.