Mayor offered no explanation for exclusion from talks
THE mayor of Somerset Regional Council said he has been left scratching his head as to why the region is continually left in the dark by the State Government, especially as local primary producers struggle through debilitating dry conditions.
Graeme Lehmann said he had been offered no explanation as to why Somerset was not recognised as a regional or rural area, excluding residents from participating in upcoming regional community forums.
The initiative is a chance for people outside the cities to discuss issues affecting them in their communities and be given "direct access to my government and my ministers" according to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Up to twenty representatives from each eligible region will meet at the first forum on Monday, with talks focused on generating employment and investment in regional Queensland.
Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington asked the Premier about the issue with a Question on Notice but she was offered no explanation behind the decision.
"After complaints from community members who wanted to represent the Somerset I asked the Premier to explain why the Somerset was not included in Queensland's list of rural and regional areas," Mrs Frecklington said.
"The Premier showed an obvious disregard for the region by completely ignoring my question and providing no reasonable explanation for the Somerset being excluded.
"This is extraordinary, especially when both the Lockyer and Ipswich regions are considered to be regional and rural by the Labor Government.
"I would like to point out to the Premier that the Somerset region is a largely rural area and has been drought declared for some time, with many primary producers feeding livestock. People from the Somerset also face many barriers including access to transport, access to health services, road networks in need of upgrade, poor access to telecommunications services and much, much more.
"The Premier is promoting these forums as a way for regional Queenslander's to have their say. I question the Premier's sincerity when she doesn't even understand the Somerset is a regional area which obviously needs to be better understood by this city-centric Government."
Cr Lehmann said he attended the Local Government Association of Queensland Annual Conference in Cairns earlier this month to put forward a motion alongside the Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley councils for a 'fair share' of Works for Queensland funding.
Over 60 Queensland councils shared in $200 million in the last round of funding for the program but Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Scenic Rim councils are not eligible for the funding, which is designed to stimulate jobs.
"I don't know what they're trying to say we are," he said.
"If we don't fit there, are they saying we're a big city council? It just doesn't make sense to me. Only for good financial management... we'd be in trouble. People's rates would be a heck of a lot dearer than what they are now.
"We're not getting looked after like we should be, I don't believe.
"If it's not Works for Queensland, then (it needs to be) another bucket of funding to give us the same kind of funding. We don't want anyone else to miss out either, but it's got to be fair across the board."