What’s really regional? The smaller SEQ councils in a battle for jobs funding

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“I think the unemployment rates tell the story, there are significant numbers of unemployed people in those areas and they should have the opportunity to get a job,” she said.

Twenty-four of the councils that received funding had a better employment rate than Toowoomba and the Scenic Rim (5.5 per cent unemployment) while 29 were better off than Noosa (5.7 per cent).

Somerset missed out on the extra cash, despite having a higher jobless rate (7.2 per cent) than 38 of the councils who received Works for Queensland funding.

Isaac Regional Council, the local government area with the lowest unemployment rate in the state (1.6 per cent) scored $1.7 million dollars for “job-creating” projects from 2017 to 2019.

A Department of Local Government spokesman said councils in the south-east were excluded due to “the consistent message received by the government from local governments that those areas (outside of SEQ) need some additional assistance to support and maintain jobs”.

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio said he understood why extra attention was given to very remote parts of the state, where unemployment was rife and sourcing jobs was difficult.

But he could not understand why places such as Cairns and Mackay, with lower jobless rates, were included and Toowoomba was not.

“We are a regional capital too,” he said.

“It is reaching a stage now, where as a regional council, it is very very hard for us to keep up with the demand for infrastructure with the growth of this community.

“Our future is bleak.”

Cr Antonio, who also heads up the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors, said despite technically falling in the south-east, his area faced many of the same problems plaguing north and west Queensland.

“We are finding it hard to know where the hell we belong,” Mr Antonio said.

“Our service area is actually west of us and that is certainly not the most vibrant area; it has a lot of issues.

“I am sorry to have to tell you this but I think the state government ought to review what they are doing. I think this is politics playing out.”

The government department spokesman said the program was designed to boost employment and jobs in regional Queensland.

“The Scenic Rim, Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Noosa councils are eligible for other infrastructure funding initiatives, including the Local Government Grants and Subsidies Program,” he said.

Lydia Lynch is a reporter for the Brisbane Times

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