New South Wales Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish has applauded the relationship between Southern Downs Regional Council and Tenterfield Shire Council, suggesting the formal strategic alliance is a model that could be used in other cross-border regions.
“It’s pleasing to see that the relationship here between Southern Downs and Tenterfield is quite mature and that they’re considering issues on a whole of region community of interest perspective rather than ‘us versus them’,” said Mr McTavish.
“I deal with the border areas of New South Wales and Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Queensland. But I think that the maturity of the discussion here is much greater than other areas.
“Southern Downs and Tenterfield councils have been quite innovative in their approach to these discussions. They have a formal agreement to progress the cross-border issues and they have an effective voice. Local MPs from both sides of the border were at the meeting and there was a cogent discussion and a cogent picture emerging about what priorities, cross-border-wise, existed.
“The alliance is something that I think we’re pretty keen to use as a model for other areas. I’ll be in Warwick at the end of May to have a chat with the Border Region Organisation of Councils about similar issues and I think that there’s an enormous amount of opportunity in those types of meetings for regional people and regional communities to get their voices heard in Sydney and in Brisbane,” he said.
Mr McTavish was among a number of representatives at a meeting of the Southern Downs and Tenterfield Councils’ Cross Border Strategic Alliance, held in Wallangarra last week.
Mayors, Councillors and staff of Southern Downs Regional Council and Tenterfield Shire Council were also joined by Mr David Littleproud MP, Federal Member for Maranoa, The Hon. Lawrence Springborg MP, State Member for Southern Downs and The Hon. Thomas George MP, State Member for Lismore, along with representatives from Queensland’s Department of State Development, Department of Main Roads and Queensland Police Service.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said the meeting was very positive and covered a diverse range of issues from economic development to tourism, water and wastewater, policing and emergency services, infrastructure, and service delivery.
“It is pleasing that the issues raised at the local government level could be given a state and federal government perspective, and taken forward. A lot of action will come out of yesterday’s meeting.
“Since the last full alliance meeting in October 2015, where the need for a stronger, more formalised approach by the Queensland and New South Wales governments to collaboration on cross-border matters was highlighted, there has been considerable traction in this area.
“We heard from the NSW Cross Border Commissioner, James McTavish and a Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet representative about the newly signed Statement of Principles and Priorities for Cross-border Collaboration between Queensland and New South Wales and there was robust discussion about the opportunities to better align programs between the two jurisdictions.
“This agreement applies to state agency activities on the Queensland and New South Wales border region, including the Southern Downs and Tenterfield local government areas.
“Of particular importance is the commitment that it demonstrates to working closely and collaboratively to improve service delivery, building local communities further developing the region economically, the very things that both Southern Downs and Tenterfield are also committed to achieving through our strategic alliance,” said Mayor Dobie.
Tenterfield Mayor Peter Petty said the alliance meetings provide a great opportunity to raise issues that need to be discussed and organised and he was proud of the unique relationship established between Tenterfield and Southern Downs.
“I would list this alliance as one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said.
“When our state and federal members are aware of the good alliance we have, it helps them do their job.”
The meeting highlighted a number of matters for follow up and future determination, including:
- Wastewater: investigation into Jennings’ sewage treatment at the Wallangarra Treatment Facility and coordination of “Building our Regions” funding.
- Water: investigation into development of a federal funding submission for dam feasibility study for Bookookoorara/Boonoo Boonoo
- Roads: Involvement of Tenterfield Shire in new Alliance for upgrades to the New England Highway; establishment of a joint working group for roads; preparation of submissions to create consistent classifications for border roads (i.e. State roads, Local Government roads); and advocacy for single road access to Bald Rock & Girraween National Park
- Emergency Services: following recent severe weather events, investigation of issues around forecasting and the availability of information such as road closures and flood warnings etc.
- Identification of strategic opportunities arising from the decentralising of federal government departments
With the upgrade of the New England Highway a discussion point on the agenda, news that Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester had announced funding of $9.3 million for safety improvements to the New England Highway was welcomed at the meeting. The $11.63 million project formed part of the National Highway Upgrade Programme and will target six sections along an 11.35km stretch of the New England Highway between Warwick and Wallangarra. The New England Safety package is a jointly funded project with the Australian Government contributing $9.3 million and the Queensland Government $2.33 million.
L-R: David Littleproud, Lawrence Springborg, Mayor Tracy Dobie, Mayor Peter Petty, James McTavish, Thomas George and Damien Connor at the Cross Border Strategic Alliance Meeting held at the Wallangarra Railway Station on 20 April 2017.