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Full of optimism for 2021 – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Mayor

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding

Firstly, I would like to wish each and every person across Ipswich a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

We can smile now with the festive season upon us and look ahead with much optimism.

In 2020, the Ipswich spirit shone through like no other year in recent memory and we have demonstrated what makes our community so strong and supportive.

No one could have predicted a global pandemic would hit everyone so hard, but it reached every corner of the world, including Ipswich. Our community showed incredible resilience – as we always do in a crisis or an emergency – and we contained the COVID pandemic together.

In March this year, local government elections were held for the first time since Ipswich City Council was placed under interim administration 20 months prior. It was an historic moment for the city, with a new council elected after a number of tumultuous years, and I was voted in as our city’s first female Mayor.

Our new council hit the ground running in April, with a mandate to deliver for the community from the get-go. We marked an Australian local government first on 1 July with the launch of the gold standard Transparency and Integrity Hub, following a $600 million annual budget for Ipswich for 2020-21.

The budget delivered over $2 million in support for small business and community organisations and we moved to ease the financial pressures on the community, be it ratepayers or small business owners, with various fees and charges waived or put on hold.

The work of our frontline forces, doctors, nurses and associated medical professionals at West Moreton Health saw Ipswich contain the pandemic. And even when COVID-19 touched close to home, we united as a community and kept it from spreading and taking hold.

Council coordinated a significant advocacy campaign as part of the Ipswich Leaders Alliance in the lead-up to the 31 October State Government elections, securing election commitments from all parties for the major infrastructure and policy reform to support our region’s transformation.

Volunteers, residents and local businesses from across Ipswich came to the aid of affected families after the storms on Halloween.

More than 500 homes were severely damaged, and our community provided many forms of assistance, from a place to wash and sleep, to help with insurance claims, and hot meals and drinks. For our part, it was an honour to work alongside Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, State Emergency Services and a number of State Government agencies to coordinate the disaster response.

Council continued to deliver in 2020 with a new three-year capital works plan and a coordinated plan to deliver a brighter future on waste for Ipswich. We finished the year with our revolutionary Waste and Circular Economy Transformation Directive, preparing innovative steps to cut waste disposal, improve resource recovery and drive the circular economy.

Further highlights from my fresh start plan for this year include: 

  • Commissioning a full forensic audit – publish findings to restore trust and accountability.
  • Writing to the CEO to ensure all council meeting minutes record how councillors vote on all items – ensuring full transparency.
  • Inviting the Crime and Corruption Commission to start a whistle-blower scheme.
  • Appointing a team to identify wasteful council spending, ensuring good stewardship of council resources.
  • Publicly releasing monthly reports detailing expenses for councillors.
  • Establishing a Creators of Ipswich Summit with major stakeholders from the Ipswich arts, performing arts and events community with a view to setting an arts strategy, policy and ongoing funding stream that will build community and deliver economic benefits.
  • Developing a plan to conduct council meetings in a transparent and inclusive manner, including meetings held in the evening, in different locations and allowing Q&A from the public gallery.
  • Commencing action to clean up the Bremer River.
  • Delivering the Waste and Circular Economy Transformation Directive for a brighter future on waste and resource recovery.
  • Receiving a full briefing on all business cases requiring state and federal funding including the second river crossing, Ipswich to Springfield rail corridor, Cunningham Highway, Mount Crosby Interchange, Ipswich motorsports precinct, Amberley Defence Aerospace Precinct and sporting facilities.
  • Publishing all awarded contracts and procurements over $10,000 as machine readable open data each month. 

In 2020, it has been wonderful to lead a group of elected representatives and an organisation that is committed to delivering for our ratepayers. Ipswich can count a number of wins this year, and you can expect more of the same in 2021 as we continue to rebuild community trust and take action on our city’s priorities.

The signs are promising: we have seen the first stages of the $250 million Nicholas Street Precinct with the recent opening of the Tulmur Place civic space and Ipswich Central Library. The new council administration building and a new CBD featuring retail, restaurants and entertainment venues will follow, with delivery scheduled for mid-2021.

On behalf of council, I would like to wish you and your loved ones all the best over the holidays. May Santa deliver, Mother Nature play her part and our city continue to show our strength and spirit in 2021.

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