The Friendly Bay Islander - Dec 01, 2013 22:13

Feasibility Study For a Separate Bay Islands Council. A Possibility.

The future of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands might best be managed by a new, island-only council.

And the concept hasn't come from any radical island group; but from the existing Local Government authority, the Redland City Council.

The concept has been put to the council by the person responsible for the division that currently represents the islands' interests, Division 5's Cr Mark Edwards.

“I believe this current Council is fully committed to delivering the best for the whole of the city and particularly to improve the quality of life on SMBI. "Redland City Council is carrying out many improvements for the islands within their financial capacity and there is a lot good faith to deliver the best outcomes.

"However, that does not mean that we shouldn’t look 'outside the box' to see if there is a better way forward for the islands.

"A separate Council is something that needs to be investigated,” he told The Friendly Bay Islander in an exclusive interview.

As well as being the Division 5 and island and Redland Bay representative, Cr Edwards also happens to be chair of council's Audit Committee and council's portfolio spokesperson for Corporate Services. The latter responsibility relates to all things financially related to Council and compliments his banking background.

"Being involved with these committees and understanding Local Government financial structures and fiscal requirements, has allowed me to look more closely at the possible future of the islands.

"In July I prepared a presentation to councillors for a proposal to seek State support to undertake an assessment of a new Bay Islands Council.

"I want to see if such a Council would be financially self sustainable, viable and beneficial to the islands community in the longer term.

"With the Mayor and Councillors' unanimous support to seek an assessment, I prepared a submission which has recently been sent to the State by our Mayor, Karen Williams” he said.
"I can see there will be some considerable advantages and disadvantages in the islands having its own Local Government council," he added.

Rather than being for or against the proposal, Cr Edwards believes what is required is a study based on factual data and not emotion; that could provide some future direction one way or the other.

"The decision regarding the creation, amalgamation, or changes to a local government is a State responsibility as Councils are instruments of the State," he says.
“The request to the State is for an assessment of the viability of a Bay Islands Council; not a commitment to form a Council nor anything further than this.”
Cr Edwards thinks that if an island Council proves viable, there could be other benefits that will emerge.

"Should an island Council eventually be established then Council decisions are reflective of an island community.

"I would expect over time there would be changes to local laws; the planning scheme; how infrastructure is prioritised and delivered; and much more.

"An island council would be focused on what works best for the islands.

"The greatest benefit of an island council (which, incidentally, would put him out of a job) would be the provision of local employment on the islands and with the new council becoming our largest employer.

"That alone would have an enormous impact on the community and the islands economy," Cr Edwards added.

Surprisingly, of all the 72 Local Government councils in Queensland, an islands council would be placed around number 40 in terms of fiscal size.

The Councillor summed things up; “We have requested the State undertake an assessment.
"There is no point in seeking an island Council if it is not sustainable and can’t deliver the infrastructure required.

"It’s not a matter of petitions and statements of support. It must be based on the ability to deliver effective and fiscally sound local governance.

"Should an investigation conclude that a Bay Islands Council could be economically self sustainable, then that presents an opportunity for a much bigger community discussion for the islands destiny," he concluded.