‘Long overdue’: Bundaberg abandons outdated WBBROC model
Bundaberg Council has resigned its membership from Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils (WBBROC), leaving North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers to step up to the role of chair.
Bundaberg Chief Executive Officer Steve Johnston said the decision was not taken lightly, with months of contemplation leading up to the shock move.
Mr Johnson said the organisation has lost significance since its establishment in 1999, dropping from a 23 council strong powerhouse to just six. He said at this time regional issues were "more common, less complex and community expectations of Councils were lower".
"The rationale for the amalgamation was to create a large regional council that was able to advocate on behalf of their communities at a mature level," Mr Johnson told the Times.
"My take on it, having been the CEO here for nearly four years, it's something that's been long overdue in terms of a review."
"Bundaberg reached a point of maturity where it potentially didn't need the other councils in the WBBROC structure to advocate, particularly with the state government, for our community."
Mr Johnson said Bundaberg will adopt a more direct advocacy approach, unconstrained by competing regional agendas.
"In some cases we'll be advocating cooperatively for funding across the region, but in reality most councils are dipping into the same size pie and everyone's after a larger slice," he said.
"The reality is that while we might be advocating on a regional basis, there is potential for competition between the councils for resources. Also, sometimes things we're advocating for aren't beneficial to the entire region."
The matter was decided at Bundaberg Council's January 27 Ordinary Meeting, where councillors elected to withdraw their WBBROC membership in a 9 to 1 vote.
Division 5 Councillor Greg Barnes opposed the move, arguing that Bundaberg has an important role to play for the Wide Bay Burnett region on important issues such as transport, communications, health and water security.
"Our member councils should work together to make sure that we get our fair share of investing from other levels of government," he said.
"Particularly as we've been recognised as one of the most disadvantaged regions in Australia and we need to address that."
"I can't support the motion and I ask councillors to consider what we're doing and how our reputation is going to be seen by the other member councils of WBBROC."
Replacing Mayor Jack Dempsey as WBBROC Chair, North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers said "the members of WBBROC respect Bundaberg's decision to resign and thank them for their 20 years of working together on projects for the common good."
"By working as a united group, WBBROC was able to save our combined communities millions of dollars, and brought millions of dollars of investments into them."
Mayor Chambers reiterated the significance of WBBROC to the region, noting recent work with key stakeholders including the RDA and Department of State Development.
Recently, in collaboration with TMR, Sunwater and the BOM, Mayor Chambers said WBBROC was able to secure $750K for flood warning infrastructure in the Burnett catchment which will help ensure that Bundaberg has the best forewarning of potential
WBBROC has also secured over $500K for weed and pest control in the upper Burnett catchment from the State and Federal Governments.
She said these projects will be starting in the very near future and WBBROC will continue to work in the best interests of the remaining five council members.