Comerford looking for staff who can handle mining boom

FINDING staff with the right mindset to turn coal ship-sized development projects around like a speed boat is among Deirdre Comerford's biggest challenges as Mackay's mayor.

She said the regional city had been on the back foot since the mining boom began taking hold in 2002, with staffing and skills still hampering forward sustainability efforts.

Ms Comerford, speaking at a Property Council of Australia forum in Brisbane yesterday morning, said the statistics were so far behind what was happening on the ground that the council was "terribly challenged" coping with the growth in the past decade.

"We very much are in a location where it is hard to get people to move to Mackay to take up positions in council and the development industry desperately needed us to do things quickly and do them well," she said.

"We haven't been resourced to do that, not for want of trying.

"You have start with getting the right people around you with the mindset you've come in with to face the challenges."

Ms Comerford said it also was about working out the serious complications for the long-term such as how to "milk the regional sustainability of our area" and "how to we look beyond the mining boom as a service basin".

"Because when the growth happened in the Bowen Basin, we were just geographically located and the business came to us, not because we were ready for it or went seeking it," she said.

"To go forward we have to day how to fund the infrastructure needed, where we want best practice across the board in everything we do."

Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said ambitious plans to slash development project waiting times by 86-98% throughout regional Queensland could only occur if council planning departments are "king"

He told guests at the breakfast forum that planning departments needed "cultural change" so decisions could be turned around in a matter of days instead of months or a year.

Mr Crisafulli announced $250,000 funding would go towards investigating ways to improve development processes in places like Mackay, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Fraser Coast, Gympie and the Whitsundays.

"In the long run we'll make more efficient councils and therefore lowering costs," he said.

"It will improve the ability for councils to meet challenges and growth trends.

"It will establish strong partnerships with the private sector rather than adversaries.

"Overall it sends a message that councils can facilitate growth without growing the bureaucracy."


LGAQ development approval/rejection timeline reductions aims.

- subdivisions (20 or more lots) - from an average 364 days down to 60 days

- private low-risk or public operational works from 88 days down to two days

- residential developments from an average 93 days to 5 for low risk