Official Opening of the 2017 Local Government Association of Queensland Annual Conference
Thank you Mr President, Mayor Jamieson, for your kind introduction. Kaye and I are delighted to be in Gladstone to join you all for this important event in the Queensland local government calendar.
I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands around Gladstone, and express my respect to Elders past and present.
Queensland’s regional, shire and city councils occupy a special place in the store of wonderful memories and experiences that we have built up since my swearing-in, now more than three years ago.
In each location we have travelled to – and there have been hundreds across this vast, decentralised State, I have sought where possible a briefing upon arrival from the Mayor and Council representatives.
These meetings are invariably highly informative, and remarkable for the warm welcome we receive, for the respect shown to the office in which I have the honour to serve, and for the clear commitment of each Council to the people it serves.
I take this opportunity to thank you all most sincerely for the critical role you have played in supporting my duties as Governor, and in deepening my understanding of the character, resilience, and warm-heartedness of Queensland’s regional communities, in both good times and bad.
Few personified as richly and energetically the warm and genial spirit of regional Queensland than our dear late Winton Mayor, Butch Lenton. Kaye’s and my two visits to Winton during this governorship were made all the more memorable by his welcoming friendliness and trademark humour. His leadership, I know, was greatly valued by his community, and admired by so many of you here, and I extend to Ros and Butch’s family, friends and colleagues, Kaye’s and my sincere condolences.
Kaye and I have been assiduous in ensuring that we maintain this precious connection with regional, rural and remote parts of the State.
In that respect, I am proud to say that, so far in 2017, we have visited at least 20 local government areas around the State, many of them several times.
Since I became Governor, I have also been able to conduct the business of Government House for an extended period from regional centres – Cairns, Longreach and Mackay to date – an experience that I have found both inspiring and productive.
It is also the case that the first piece of infrastructure that I officially opened as Governor was in a regional area.
The Sarina Water Recycling Facility was not the most romantic of places to start. But it was an excellent example of why local governments are so important to Queenslanders.
As I said at the time, effective waste treatment and disposal once represented critical advances in community heath. We tend to take these basic local government services for granted these days, but they remain undeniably of the highest importance to the well-being of communities.
Nevertheless, as a glance at any council website will quickly show, the role of councils is substantially broader than this. Recreation facilities, sustainable planning and development, and economic development are among the issues that now occupy councils.
The complexity of the modern role of local governments is also evident from the program of this conference.
Roads and transport, media and communications, innovation, rural library services, data analytics, and encouraging small business, all feature in your busy schedule.
That said, an important part of this conference is not to be found anywhere in the formal program. The informal discussions you have with colleagues during the Conference are an invaluable opportunity to discuss, contrast, compare, and learn from the ideas and experiences of local government representatives from all over the State.
I thank the LGAQ for its leadership and hard work in bringing this major conference to fruition, and the Gladstone Regional Council for its warm welcome. I thank the sponsors who have supported the Conference.
I wish you every success in your endeavours here in Gladstone, and when you return home, in serving the people of your communities, in seizing that ocean of opportunity presented by inevitable waves of change.
With that admirable goal in mind, it gives me great pleasure to declare the 121st Local Government Association of Queensland Annual Conference officially open.