Accountability for Continued Growth

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-By Aleisha Parr

When it comes to vacation destinations, Queensland’s Mackay Region offers some of the more striking, untouched features and attractions. The region, which lies along the northern coastline of Queensland, halfway between Brisbane and Cairns, boasts a wide array of white sand beaches, secluded islands and lush green parks and rainforests. With its generally consistent tropical climate and untouched feel, Mackay Region has been of great appeal to tourists and residents alike.

What draws people to Mackay Region is obvious the moment you catch sight of its beautiful attractions; what keeps people there is its strong economic growth and readily available employment opportunities. Although the region is historically known for its production of sugar cane, it is the mining industry which accounts for most of the recent growth seen in Mackay Region. This has been an important focus for Mayor Col Meng and the Mackay Regional Council, which is structured in a rather unique way for a Queensland Council. Rather than organising it into the typical divisions, Mayor Meng has instead chosen to run the Council using a portfolio system, whereby each of his ten Councillors is responsible for a specific portfolio, such as water, roads, finance or parks and gardens.

Mayor Meng explains how the system has made it easier to do business in the region: “We believe that this certainly is a very good way to be. It’s made councillors very accountable for their position and it gives the community a person that they can go and talk to. So it’s very similar to state and federal, whereas they have ministers we have portfolio councillors and it has worked very well here and it has helped with our growth in going forward.”

And indeed, the region has seen positive growth trends. With job opportunities abundant, due in part to the recent resources boom but also to the Council’s investments into infrastructure such as its universities and hospitals, the region has a stronger employment rate than its neighbours both to the North and even some areas in the South.

The newly constructed Mackay Entertainment Convention Centre (MECC), a business unit of the Mackay Regional Council, has aided in this growth, providing for new opportunities within the region since its opening nearly eighteen months ago. The $29 million state-of-the-art facility includes a 1090 seat theatre, a 100 seat studio space, two plenary halls which extend to accommodate 1800 people, two dedicated foyers, bars, a theatre space and breakout rooms alongside extensive front-of-hour and backstage facilities.

The construction of this facility allows for more conferences and conventions to be held within the Mackay Region, drawing visitors from around the world and establishing it as the centre for such important activities. Most notably, the MECC has been host to the Queensland Mining and Engineering Exhibition (QME) and its inaugural QME Conference last year. While the QME Exhibition had been held in Mackay Region for numerous years, 2010 was the first year that the QME was able to provide an accompanying conference, now that the facilities for such an event were available. With attendees from countries including China, Brazil, South Africa and India, the conference draws in thousands of high-profile mining professionals. Says Mayor Meng, “It is a huge attractor and we’re quite proud that it is run in our region and that we’re therefore seen as one of the mining services centres in all of Australia.”

Deputy Mayor Darryl Camilleri adds: “Over the last ten to fifteen years we’ve seen a real evolution of the mining support industry particularly in our community . . . Certainly there have been a lot of work opportunities in this area. The growth in the mining industry in itself has meant that there are a lot of new jobs being created and we have very low unemployment numbers throughout the area.”

While there are no actual mines located within the region itself, there is a strong mining presence in the nearby Bowen Basin coalfields, situated just to the west of Mackay in the hinterlands. With companies including – but not limited to – BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, Xstrata, Rio Tinto Coal Australia Pty Ltd and Macarthur Coal involved in current mining operations in the area, the recent resources boom is having great effect on the Mackay Region, as it sees the expansion of old mines and the construction of new ones. This evolution in turn fuels Mackay Region’s diverse support services industry, while also increasing population growth.

In a prudent move, the Mackay Regional Council – in conjunction with the Isaac Regional Council and the Sarina Shire Council – has created a board to ensure that the coal mining industry throughout the Bowen Basin receives proper and consistent attention and care. As there are a number of companies of various sizes and interests operating throughout the area, the board recognises the importance of including everyone working within the industry in the region and not just communicating with one or two of the larger companies. Working together with one another, industry professionals in the regions, and both State and Federal Governments, the board endeavours to maintain and communicate standards and expectations. Reports Mayor Col Meng, “That’s been pretty eventful for us and I think into the future it will be very important for the whole of the country and not just our regions.”

Another initiative underway in the region is The Mining Trail, a tourist attraction and educational experience exploring the mining industry and its associated networks. The trail spans approximately 300km between Clermont and Mackay along the coast, following the export route from the Bowen Basin coal mines through to its ports in Hay Point for overseas export. Showcasing both man-made historical attractions, such as original mining towns and industry sites, as well as the untouched hinterland, the trail can take a few days to fully explore. In the works for a few years now, the trail is open and already attracting many tourists passing through the region to stop and stay awhile to explore the fascinating local history.

The recent evolution of Mackay Region is exciting to watch. Comments Mayor Meng, “Handling growth is one of the most important things for our city. I think if we can handle growth – which I believe Council has done in recent times – if we can handle that and keep going forward it will set a great path for Mackay Region in years to come.” With its innovative system of leadership complementing its dynamic community plans and investments, it does seem that the Mackay Regional Council is set to enjoy a lucrative future.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

November 21, 2018, 3:43 AM AEDT