The Bundaberg Regional Council was formed in 2008, following the amalgamation of the Kolan Shire, Isis Shire, Burnett Shire and Bundaberg City Councils. The Regional Council’s Local Government area now stretches over 6500 square kilometres, and with a population quickly approaching 100,000, the Bundaberg region offers its residents the liveability of the fifth most equitable climate in the world. “The Bundaberg region has a perceptible vibe about it,” says Mayor Mal Forman. “It is a region ready to reap the rewards that ever-increasing investment and development will secure. It is a region growing on the back of community and investor confidence.” The Mayor also points out that the Bundaberg region has been a state leader in housing recovery, and the wide range of franchised businesses seeking a base in the area is testament to its current and future viability. As well, the region’s superior education facilities, including the local Central Queensland University campus, ensure the best available learning centres for both private and public education opportunities.
Council is currently undertaking an initiative to introduce a new Bundaberg Regional Planning Scheme that will replace the four individual schemes of its amalgamated Councils. “Working with four schemes has posed significant problems, and the need for consistency and a unified approach to regional planning is identified in the new draft document.” The draft scheme will focus on the manner in which flood-affected areas are zoned, and will hold considerations for areas that may experience localised flooding during a storm surge. The new draft document will also help to streamline the process of dealing with minor development issues. Council continues to follow a well thought-out path through both its Corporate Plan and the Bundaberg Region 2031 Plan, which has identified a number of community aspirations and Council goals. “We continue to work in the best interests of every resident across our great region,” Forman says.
Bundaberg is home to a diverse range of retail facilities, including two major shopping centres and a number of large-scale plans for the future. The region’s restaurants are known to showcase both local farm produce and the freshest daily catch from local waterways. “I’m exceptionally proud of everything our region has to offer,” says the Mayor. “Our parks, gardens and recreation areas are in pristine condition, with Council promoting their use in achieving a healthy and active lifestyle.” Bundaberg boasts a variety of iconic visitor attractions, including Alexandra Park, home of the Council’s emerging zoo facilities, the Mon Repos Turtle experience, tours of the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery and Ginger Beer factory, and the superb facilities at Childers with Snakes Downunder and Flying High Bird Sanctuary, two must-see attractions. A particular source of pride for the Council is the Hinkler Hall of Aviation and Hinkler House: an interactive, educational tribute to a local hero, and one of the world’s pioneer aviators.
Since its launch in August 2014, the Council’s Open for Development initiative has become a catalyst for development activity throughout the Bundaberg region. Under the program, 93 development projects were eligible for significant discounts on infrastructure charges if completed within a certain timeframe. The initiative has generated almost $106 million worth of construction within the region, and will create 606 jobs once all incentivised projects are completed. This development activity has bolstered confidence in the area, resulting in several major chains seeking to invest in the region.
Bundaberg Regional Council hosts a number of significant events throughout the year, such as the Childers Festival, one of the largest annual events in regional Queensland. “Each year on the last weekend of July, 40,000 people pack the streets of this beautiful heritage location to enjoy multicultural entertainment, hundreds of market stalls and cuisine from all parts of the globe,” says Mayor Forman. As well, the Council has recently launched Bundy Flavours, an annual event highlighting the Bundaberg region’s “salad bowl” reputation, providing residents and visitors with an opportunity to engage with its many growers and producers.
Currently engaged in producing its 2015/16 budget document, the Regional Council has taken into account the current period of tight financial circumstances for the area’s ratepayers. “I understand that the weekly pay packet can only stretch so far, and constant demands on the average wage earner through cost of living increases are placing pressure on families right across our region,” Forman says. “As a consequence, Council is actively exploring every avenue of saving and implementing every efficiency to ensure our ratepayers receive full value for every dollar we invest in our community.” The Council is also engaged in a number of environmentally sustainable initiatives, such as Clean Energy Bundaberg. The initiative saw $400, 000 invested in the last year towards a variety of energy saving projects, including the installation of timers on lights in 53 toilet blocks, the replacement of an old air conditioner in the Civic Centre, the retrofitting of 54 energy efficient lights in parks and streets along the Bargara, and the installation of voltage optimisation equipment in six government buildings, and was made possible by a $233, 819 Federal Government grant, as well as a $133, 953 Council contribution.
A wide range of community groups and organisations make positive contributions to the quality of life in the Bundaberg region. Council’s Community Development team works to assist in the development of these groups, as well as not-for-profit organisations. The Social Development Action Plan, adopted in June 2014, serves as a guide for the Council when addressing community needs. “This important living document was developed in consultation with community groups,” says Forman, “and identifies whether or not Council is meeting the goals identified by our community on a range of issues, including community resilience and preparedness for natural disasters, strengthening local services, raising awareness about health and wellbeing, and enhancing equitable access to information, services and events.”
The Regional Council is currently working tirelessly to develop a budget that will deliver on the Council’s own goals, as well as the expectations of the region’s residents in terms of levels of service. The Council aims to accomplish this while simultaneously maintaining the lowest rate increases possible, in order to ensure affordability for its rate payers.