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High profile regional Queensland mayor calls it quits

Western Downs mayor Paul McVeigh


PAUL McVEIGH, mayor of the Western Downs region, has announced he will be stepping down from the role at next year’s local government elections, paving the way for a new council leader in one of rural Queensland’s busiest and most diverse regions.

McVeigh made the announcement Monday to his Facebook followers. There is yet to be an official statement from the Western Downs Regional Council (WDRC).

“Today I have announced to my fellow councillors and executive team that I will not be contesting the election for mayor of the Western Downs Regional Council at the 2024 local government election,” McVeigh said.

“I have enjoyed the role of Mayor of Western Downs Regional Council and the honour of representing our community since 2016.

“I am most proud of how our united council has performed over the two terms of council. Together we have grown the economic diversity of our region and continued to improve the liveability of our region.”

Western Downs Regional Council mayor Paul McVeigh with CEO Jodie Taylor. IMAGE: Country Caller

As mayor, McVeigh has overseen some of the Western Downs’ most prosperous and challenging periods.

He took the helm of the WDRC soon after the region had become the centre of Queensland’s rapid coal seam gas industry development, and as its communities grappled with periodic growing pains and economic downturns characteristic of a ‘boom and bust’ cycle.

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More recently, McVeigh’s administration has been managing the rapid development of the renewable energy industry amid the Queensland’s government’s net zero ambitions.

McVeigh, a career agriculturalist based at Dalby, was also the region’s spokesman when it made national and international headlines during times of flood and bushfire natural disasters, and in the wake of the horrific Wieambilla shooting last December.

“I thank my fellow councillors for their support and contribution to Western Downs Regional Council. Together we have met the challenges that are faced by a progressive council planning for the future in today’s environment. We have also stood tall in times of adversity,” he said.

“I have enjoyed the pleasure of working with two great CEOs, whose passion and capacity to make the Western Downs Regional Council such a strong organisation, has truly amazed me.

“I would like to thank our current councillor who have served in previous terms of council, for their dedication to their community, that has allowed us to continue to grow the Western Downs region.

“Also, for future councillors who through their dedication and capacity will shape the future of the Western Downs region.

“I am blessed with a truly amazing wife and family. Since becoming mayor I have spent more time away from my wife Debbie than any other time in our married life of 45 years. I thank Deb and my family for their understanding and patience to let me contribute as mayor to the Western Downs community.

“It is now time to enjoy my family, not just as a husband, father, grandfather but also as a great grandfather.”

Queensland’s local government elections will be held on March 16 next year.

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Western Downs mayor Paul McVeigh with his wife, Debbie. IMAGE: Suppliec

Business Navigator team seeks new Program Manager

Western Downs Business Navigator's outgoing Program Manager, Paulene Rorich. IMAGE: Supplied


In the heart of Western Downs, the Business Navigator Western Downs Program is on a mission to empower local businesses to grow.

Our Program’s Essence:

Funded by Shell QCG’s Social Investment Program, Business Navigator Western Downs is more than a coaching initiative; it’s a helping hand for small businesses.

Over the last 5 years, Business Navigator coaches have assisted over two hundred small businesses, through tailored advice and coaching, peer networks, and workshops open to all small business in the community.

The Business Navigator team consists of three business professionals: a lead business coach, a generalist business coach, and a marketing advisor.

The Business Navigator Team: Ailsa Cass (Marketing Advisor), Paulene Rorich (Lead Business Coach) and Suzanne Woods (Generalist Business Coach). IMAGE: Supplied

2024 brings a change to the team, with current Lead Business Coach, Paulene Rorich, relinquishing her role to have a career break and travel overseas.

“I joined the team in early 2021 and, honestly, it has an absolute privilege to be part of this program.” said Paulene.

“I will look back at my time with the Business Navigator program as a career highlight.”

“People always make or break a job for me. Western Downs Regional Council actually has the catchphrase “It’s the people that make it” and I have certainly found that to be true.

This job has great people on all sides, from colleagues and client to stakeholders and the communities across the region.”

Applications are now open via Seek. https://www.seek.com.au/job/71757354

Meet the businesses we’ve assisted:

Chinchilla Florist

Business Navigator has helped Erin put her ideas for Chinchilla Florist into action. IMAGE: Supplied

If you frequent Chinchilla, you may have noticed some changes on the main street this year. Erin Ford, owner of Chinchilla Florist, has been busy re-inventing her shop, with new signage and an internal makeover making the shop both inviting and productive.

“When I bought the business over 2 years ago, I had big ideas if what I wanted for the shop.’ said Erin.

“Business Navigator provided the ‘driving force’ to help me put my ideas into action. Having some trusted help really helped me build my business to where I am today, right up there living the dream!”

Wade Custom Fabrication

Business Navigator helped Jeff develop his business knowledge. IMAGE: Supplied

Jeff has been a fabricator for 20 years, and 3 years ago started his own business, Wade Custom Fabrications in Tara.

“The reason I got in touch with Business Navigator was to try and get the knowledge that I needed to run a successful business.” said Jeff. “They definitely helped my understanding of things like cash flow, marketing and being a profitable business.”

“The thing I like most about the program is the one-on-one meetings, helping me go through certain areas, rather than me trying to figure things out myself.”

To watch more client stories and find out more about the Lead Business Coach/Program Manager role, go to https://www.navigatorwesterndowns.com.au/lead-business-coach-recruitment 

Your role in these stories:

As the Lead Business Coach/Program Manager, you will continue to build the legacy of the Business Navigator program. You’ll be at the forefront of these success stories, executing program activities that include 1:1 coaching sessions, peer network meetings, workshops, and online learning.

The Western Downs is a vibrant community with a tapestry of diverse businesses.

Through our program, you’ll contribute to the resilience and sustainability of local small business, the collaborative spirit of communities, and the opportunities that unfold when people are enabled to achieve the vision they have for their businesses.

The role goes beyond managing a team and delivery a service – it’s about being a catalyst and a cheerleader for growth.

WATCH: The Business Navigator team chats about the Lead Business Coach role

If you’re passionate about small business and want to be contributing to the economic tapestry of Western Downs, consider being part of our team.

Your collaborative leadership style, understanding of regional business challenges, and commitment to positive impact are what we’re seeking.

More information about the role is available at https://www.navigatorwesterndowns.com.au/lead-business-coach-recruitment

Applications are now open via Seek. https://www.seek.com.au/job/71757354

Beloved bush racing identity dies after alleged assault

Shaun Creevey, originally from Thargomindah, died from an alleged assault in Chinchilla


THE beloved family of Shaun Creevey and the thoroughbred racing community of western Queensland are stricken by grief following his death this week, which resulted from him being allegedly assaulted at his Chinchilla apartment on November 21.

Mr Creevey died of a heart attack Monday at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, where he was being treated for severe head injuries allegedly caused last Wednesday by his 21-year-old neighbour, Jye Hocken-Thiedeke.

Police were called to the Wambo St complex where the pair lived about 9.30pm, after Mr Hocken-Thiedeke allegedly struck Mr Creevey during a scuffle at Mr Creevey’s front door.

“(Mr Creevey) was struck in the head, causing him to fall to the ground,” police said in a statement. “He was transported (airlifted) to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with serious head injuries in a critical condition.”

“(Mr Hocken-Thiedeke) was taken into custody at the scene and charged with one count of grievous bodily harm.”

Jye Hocken-Thiedeke remains in custody

It’s unclear how the altercation between the two neighbours arose.

The Caller understands that incidentally Mr Creevey, a respected disability and aged care worker, had been providing care services to Mr Hocken-Thiedeke’s disabled younger brother. There’s no suggestion this related to the incident.

Mr Hocken-Thiedeke appeared in the Dalby Magistrates Court on November 22. He made no bail application and was remanded in custody.

Following Mr Creevey’s death in hospital on Monday, police today upgraded Mr Hocken-Thiedeke’s charge from grievous bodily harm to unlawful striking causing death.

Shaun Creevey has been described by loved ones as a horse lover with a passion for racing and campdrafting. IMAGES: Supplied

Shaun Creevey, originally from Augathella in South West Queensland, was a well-known and highly regarded member of the bush racing community.

He’d worked as a trainer, trainer’s assistant, stablehand and horse strapper at various race clubs before moving to the Western Downs about 18 months ago to continue his career as a carer.

A colleague told the Caller that residents at an aged care centre in Miles where he worked “absolutely loved him”.

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Mr Creevey’s nephew, Cameron Creevey, told the Caller that as well as being “a very loving and caring person”, his uncle was an excellent horseman with a passion for racing and campdrafting.

“He loved his horses. Whenever you talked to him he’d always bring up horses,” Cameron said.

“I was very close with him. When I was a young fella he would always come and look after us kids. We’d stay over for the night and he’d take us to school in the morning.”

Shaun Creevey with his niece, Emmie. IMAGE: Supplied

Cameron Creevey said his uncle was being treated for severe brain breeding while in hospital, and he died following a heart attack he suffered on Monday.

“It’s a very sad tragedy. It’s very heartbreaking,” he said.

“There was a lot of stress over the past week about whether or not he’d pull through. 

“Nana had a meeting with the doctors and said there’s no brain function anymore so there’s not much they could do, so his life support had to be turned off.”

Mr Creevey is survived by his parents Joe and Gloria, brothers Damian and Calvin, and six nieces and nephews. A date for his funeral is yet to be set.

Friends in the country racing industry have been sharing tributes online for the 45-year-old.

Coby Flint wrote: “You have taught me so much and every time I seen you, u always had somthing to tell me if it was about race horses to goss to so much more. Fishing trips used to be good fun til that brown snake nearly got you on the foot and them yellow belly would be worth it every time You always would wanted to help out whenever you could and I was forever grateful of who you were and plenty of others would think the same. You’ll always be missed and dearly remembered by many and always loved” (sic).

Zoe Hohn wrote: “To say I am absolutely shattered is an understatement. I will cherish ever second spent with you forever. All the advice you gave the laughs we had together and the way you made me feel when all I needed was picking up. You thought me how to appreciate the little things in life and I sure am going to miss the late night chats the rum around the pool table and the banter we shared. You were one hell of a man Shauny and I hope you watch over me from above. You will never be forgotten”. (sic)

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Beef, AgTech, industry outlook on menu at BEEF 2024

Beef Australia CEO Simon Irwin


THE various culinary delights of Australia’s best red meat will be on the menu at BEEF 2024 as organisers promise ‘something for everyone’ with a new M’Eat Street ‘carnival’ and entertainment precinct aimed at including locals in the industry celebration.

Organisers of BEEF 2024, Beef Australia’s triennial expo held in the nation’s cattle capital of Rockhampton, are expecting a record-breaking turn out as people travel from around the country and abroad – but securing a bed in Rockhampton could prove trickier than securing a ticket for the event itself.

Beef Australia chief executive Simon Irwin said there was “virtually no accommodation” left, despite tickets only going on sale to the public on October 31.

Beef Australia CEO Simon Irwin, speaking at the BEEF 2024 launch earlier this year. IMAGE: Beef Australia

“The event itself, from a tradeshow point of view, is between 40 and 100 percent over subscribed. So it’s full,” Irwin said.

“You can’t get a room in Rockhampton for love nor money.

“I think people do really give it their best shot to get there because of the fact that it’s a long time between drinks.”

Running from May 5-11 next year, the week-long exhibition and celebration at the Rockhampton Showgrounds is the nation’s largest cattle and beef industry event. 

It draws industry leaders, producers and other industry stakeholders from around the country and overseas to discuss the successes, challenges and future of the industry.

Country Caller’s coverage of BEEF 2021

With thousands of cattle on site, Beef Australia’s expo is also the country’s largest cattle judging event.

Irwin said the new and extended program represented the evolution of beef business and depth of opportunities within the industry, as well as its challenges.

“There’ll be a big, big focus there on new tech to make life easier and more accurate on the land, but also on carbon farming and sustainability,” he said.

“I think we’re going into this era of the ‘social licence to eat’ and what are the ethics of eating? 

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“There are changing expectations that are reflected in the topics that we’ll be discussing with ESG (environmental, social and governance), and carbon neutral or climate neutral. 

“And I think one of the interesting things is that in 2024 I don’t think the questions have been settled, let alone answered.”

Animal genetics, sustainability and carbon, food safety, market trends, digitisation, and international trade are expected to be key topics discussed during the many seminars and symposiums.

For something a little lighter for the youngsters there’ll be a dedicated Kids’ Zone with beef education and entertainment.

Finalists in the event highlight Pitch in the Paddock at BEEF 2021. IMAGE: Country Caller

While other major draw cards include the hotly contested cattle competitions, tradeshow and Tech & Innovation Hub.

Irwin said the event was also an opportunity to celebrate the entire beef producing community, as well as the locals with the after dark events providing no shortage of fun.

There’ll be a chance for all to frock up, enjoy a culinary feast and for those willing – a chance to tear up the dance floor.

For more information and ticket sales, visit Beef Australia’s official website.

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New ‘PeopleFirst’ era for Toowoomba’s Heritage Bank


TOOWOOMBA’s iconic Heritage Bank will usher in a new era early next year when the newly merged customer-owned bank is officially renamed People First Bank.

Heritage merged with South Australia’s People’s Choice in March this year and customers can expect to see the first elements of the rebranding process from March 2024.

Heritage CEO Peter Lock (main picture) said the new brand was underpinned by extensive consultation with customers and employees who said they wanted the organisation to continue to put people first.

“We are owned by our customers. There is no doubt about our priorities. We exist to serve the interests of our customers,” Lock said.

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“Unlike the listed bank model, we don’t have the conflict of having to generate massive profits to pay dividends to shareholders. Our profits remain in the business to provide ongoing value to customers and their communities.

“While our name and brand will change, our commitment to our customers, employees, local communities and being proudly customer-owned remains the same.”

Heritage and People’s Choice is Australia’s largest member-owned financial institution with 730,000 customers, 2000 employees and $23.3 billion in total assets.

Heritage Bank’s head office on Ruthven Street in Toowoomba. IMAGE: Supplied

Peter Lock said the organisation had undertaken a comprehensive process to develop the new brand to fulfil a key merger commitment.

“From the outset, we promised we would develop a single new brand following the merger, which customers overwhelmingly supported.

“We had no intention of adopting a multi-brand approach, as we have always aspired to create a strong new national brand that genuinely challenges the profit-maximisation model of the listed banks.”

Chairman Michael Cameron (pictured) said that the highly anticipated new brand offered a compelling proposition as a national purpose-driven, customer-focused banking organisation.

“People First Bank says exactly what we are focussed on – people,” Cameron said.

“Our new brand builds on the strengths and values of both organisations over our near 150-year history while standing out in today’s highly competitive banking environment.”

Heritage Bank’s rich history in Toowoomba dates back to 1875 with the establishment of the Toowoomba Permanent Building Society, which merged with Darling Downs Building society in the early 1980s to form Heritage Building Society.

The bank moved into its Ruthven Street headquarters, Heritage Plaza, in 1983 where it remains 40 years on.

While next year’s name change will be the end of an era for Heritage Bank, Peter Lock said it will be another historic milestone for the organisation.

‘We Give a Fork’: Farmers’ new horticulture campaign

QFVG chief executive Rachel Chambers


THE fight for the survival of Australia’s fresh produce industry is stepping up with a peak farming body launching a year long campaign to re-engage communities in the process of getting food from the paddock to their plate.

Titled ‘We Give a Fork’, the Queensland Fruit & Vegetable Growers campaign has been designed as a call to action for farmers and consumers to unite.

CEO Rachel Chambers said the industry body representing Queensland fruit, vegetable, and nut growers could no longer remain quiet on a ‘lack of understanding or interest’ from government officials whose decisions resulted in on-farm consequences.

“At the moment, the government intervention that they have sought to enact is a whole lot of extra costs on growers,” Chambers said.

“Already in the pipeline are extra costs which may be incurred by the end of this year with the changing of the Level 1 Horticulture Award to Level 2 Horticulture.”

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Chambers also pointed to recent and future rule changes to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM) saying it’s become problematic for business, despite many farmers initially welcoming it as a lifeline for workforce shortages.

Since its introduction the scheme has proven to be a delicate balance of diplomacy between Australia and participating nations, with the scheme’s imperfections recently reaching another pain point following Fiji’s announcement to join others in reducing involvement. 

The latest adjustment by the Federal Government designed to better protect workers has also resulted in increased employers’ regulatory, compliance and cost burdens.

It’s left many farmers searching for staff outside the plan, if at all as they consider running a reduced workforce in an effort to offset surging input costs on fuel, freight and fertiliser.

Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers CEO Rachel Chambers. IMAGE: Supplied

“All that comes with a cost burden to the growers,” Chambers said.

“Profitability is definitely of the most concern at the moment.

“They’re actually not even paying themselves and instead they’re eating into their super, their savings and their capital and have been doing that for years and for many there’s nothing left.”

The recent campaign launch held in Brisbane coincided with a moment of recognition for the organisation reaching a major milestone of 100 years.

However there would be no major event, with planned celebrations called off earlier in the year due to the dire situation for farmers.

Chambers said the campaign was a much needed two-way conversation for the public to demonstrate a desire to secure the future of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts being grown locally, as much as it was an opportunity for growers to provide insights of the produce they grow, the people they employ, the businesses they operate and the communities in which they live and work.  

Agronomist Shane Fitzgerald (left) with Trevor Cross

“We would not be launching a campaign if we thought that we were making progress with closed door government meetings,” Chambers said.

“We’re writing submissions, we’re sending letters and we’re having a general voice to government. 

“We’re not making any inroads at all and there is no understanding of the seasonality on nuances of horticulture, and that’s what we’re trying to change.”

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Shane Fitzgerald grew up on a crop farm in the Lockyer Valley before digging deeper into soil chemistry and agronomy research. 

The Queensland based agronomist said he was happy to be featured in the campaign launch because of his concern for an industry under immense pressure physically and financially. 

The latest findings by AUSVEG suggested 34 percent of farmers surveyed nationally were considering exiting the industry completely within 12 months.

Fitzgerald (pictured) said growers would like to get a fair return for what they do, and that without them jobs like his would disappear.

“Not every business deserves to be in business and we know you have to earn that right,” he said.

“But we work across a wide range of industries and I have never seen such a wide range of industries all stressed at the same time.

“It’s unprecedented yet at the same time there is an enormous appetite for investment in Australian agriculture.

“Growers don’t mind taking on risk but they want to get to a point where they can get a fair day’s pay for doing the work.”

For more information on how to join the campaign and show ‘We Give a Fork’, visit  www.qfvg.au or by searching Queensland Fruit & Vegetable Growers on social media.

WATCH: We Give A Fork campaign launch

UQ Gatton past students heading ‘back to college’

Past students at last year's celebration of 125 years of the Gatton campus. IMAGE: UQ Gatton


THE HALLOWED halls of the University of Queensland’s Gatton campus will be a hive of activity next weekend when past students return to their old stomping ground to reconnect with friends and celebrate their achievements since graduation.

The Back to College Weekend is an annual reunion hosted by the UQ Gatton Past Students’ Association, with no shortage of talented alumni to acknowledge and catch-up with across a packed program of events.

Food technology students at the Gatton campus in 1990. Image: UQ Archives

“Most of the advancements in agriculture, including animals and plants, have been as a result of people who went to Gatton,” Students’ Association Secretary Kim Jorgensen said.

“It is just phenomenal what people from Gatton have done in their careers and are still doing.

“You can’t go anywhere without meeting someone from Gatton. We could have a reunion in every town in Queensland if we wanted to.”

What was originally the Queensland Agricultural College (QAC) was founded in 1897 before amalgamating with UQ in 1990.

Kim Jorgensen before an ‘Iron Man’ race. IMAGE: Supplied

Jorgensen (pictured above) shared fond memories of living on campus for four years to study a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food Technology, from 1981-84.

“That was pretty exciting for me, as far as a kid from the bush who’d never been away from home basically before,” she said.

“A lot of our social life was based around the campus in those days. Most of my friends that I still have today, I met at college.”

Jorgensen kindly dug into the archives at the Caller‘s request, unearthing some classic shots of student raft races in Lockyer Creek (pictured below); just some of the old-fashioned fun alumni would be reliving next weekend.

The Back to College Weekend will also celebrate 60 years of hockey being played at UQ Gatton, with sport being a “huge” part of student life, according to Jorgensen.

“Everyone who lived on campus virtually played something,” she said.

“The rugby union was probably the main thing people followed.”

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UQ Gatton still has hockey, netball, rugby union and volleyball teams playing in regional competitions today.

Jorgensen said the reunion program includes facilities tours, an update from the university on its focus, a reunion dinner and networking opportunities.

Students show off a cabbage at The Ekka in 1999. Image: UQ Archives

“It’s something that we’re trying to develop with our younger group that are coming out of Gatton, to make those connections,” she said.

“That’s what we see as one of the important goals of our association – to help current students and new graduates to make those connections because it might be a bit more difficult these days than it was in our day.”

Jorgensen said while in years gone by, graduates often walked into roles at institutions such as the Department of Primary Industries, times had changed and the variety of careers pursued by graduates now was far more diverse.

For more information or to register for the event visit this website.

UQ Gatton students after final exams in 2022. IMAGE: UQ Gatton Facebook

EXCLUSIVE: Bob’s service to Cairns, council and country

Retired Cairns mayor Bob Manning and (INSET) with his wife, Claire, during Mannings army days. IMAGE: Supplied


THE sudden resignation of Cairns mayor Bob Manning has brought to an end a long and diverse career which took the proud North Queenslander from Cairns to the Darling Downs and from Longreach to the Mediterranean, leaving a litany of well recognised achievements along the way.

But Manning says it was the three years he served as a young man in the Australian Army, including a year in Vietnam, which shaped him most greatly, imparting a work ethic which has seen the 78-year-old become Cairns’ second longest serving mayor and a widely respected veteran of Queensland local government.

Manning was this week interviewed exclusively by the Caller after announcing he’d be retiring effective immediately for health reasons, after nearly 12 years at the helm of Cairns Regional Council.

“We all get older and none of us can run from that,” he said over the phone from he and wife Claire’s backyard garden in suburban Cairns.

Manning, a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient and graduate of the University of Southern Queensland’s business school, is credited as a key facilitator of Far North Queensland’s tropical tourism industry boom.

As Cairns mayor Manning drove several large city beautification projects such as the Esplanade Dining Precinct, Munro Martin Park redevelopment and a major streetscape upgrade in the city’s bustling centre.

Before running for politics, Manning spent 18 years as CEO of the Cairns Ports Authority which oversaw seaport and airport development in the city.

The local Cairns Post newspaper noted this week that since 1984, the number of domestic and international passengers passing through Cairns Airport had risen tenfold from 1,500 per day to 15,000 per day currently.

Bob Manning with his wife, Cairns mayoress Claire Manning

After resigning from the Cairns Ports Authority, Bob and Claire Manning lived in Cyprus where Bob worked as CEO of Hermes Airports Ltd, a multinational consortium established to set up new international airports in the republic.

Upon his return he found a calling in local government and was elected Cairns Regional Council mayor in 2012.

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“That was a time when tourism really started to hit Cairns, so it was an exciting time,” Manning told the Caller.

“We realised that Cairns was very much a tropical tourism city that depends on tourism. It’s not our biggest industry, but it’s what makes us tick. We needed to stay attractive, we needed people to be interested in us and how pretty our city is, and we needed to maintain it. 

“We moved more into cultural activities. We now have three art gallery buildings and a fourth will go up. It’s helped to change the character of the city and what makes it appealing to people.”

Cairns city, tropical Far North Queensland. IMAGE: Cairns Regional Council

With a combined population of 255,000 people, the tropical Far North coast and Atherton Tableland region is Queensland’s largest Statistical Area north of Wide Bay.

Cairns Regional Council commands an annual budget averaging about $450 million, and Manning said he was proud to have led an administration that managed its finances responsibly and effectively.

“We started off with a whole set of fresh new ideas, and those ideas were to get jobs done and not to just talk about them – get them done and get them done as quickly as possible,” Manning said.

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“We worked our way through the program and we kept our rates fairly low. It was only during the Covid years that we took a couple of hits. 

“I’m pretty proud of the way the council’s maintained its low-rate incomes. We’ve always said that for our ratepayers, we’re not going to put any debt on them. I think overall we’ve been very responsible financially and we’ve had some darn good financial people working for us.”

Manning’s career in local government began in Longreach in the late 1970s when he because Shire Clerk, remaining in the role for eight years.

Manning said the mentorship he received from Longreach council doyen Charlie Palmer, who famously arrived in the office at 3am daily, stuck with him throughout his career.

“That’s the way it was out there – everybody started work early,” Manning said.

“It was something different. Claire and I had never met people like that before – people who were real people, who really took you in and liked you. We were both in our late 20s and we’d just never struck people like that before. It was just wonderful.”

SLIDESHOW: Mayor Bob Manning’s 12 colourful years in office

There was a discomforting silence when, for editorial accuracy, the Caller sought confirmation that Manning’s three years Australian Army during the Vietnam War years include a year-long overseas tour of duty.

“Yep,” he replied, without elaborating.

Then, after a pause, Manning added: “There’s good and bad in the world all the time. These days there seems to be more bad than good. At that time, that was a big issue”. 

In 1968 Manning was conscripted for National Service and graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant following a six-month course with the Officer Training Unit.

That course, Manning said, was the highlight of his professional life, and the fondest memory of his military service.

Bob Manning and wife Claire at Scheyville NSW in 1968, following his graduation as 2nd Lieutenant from the Officer Training Unit

“I got straightened up a bit when I got called into the army,” he said.

“You get a lot of kicks in the backside, especially from the higher ranking officers. They say you’re all bloody hopeless, but I didn’t mind that. 

“That course that we were subjected to, and the bastardry that went with it – which we enjoyed every bit of – was a wonderful experience and it certainly changed my life and the way I think. We loved that course. They certainly changed us, toughened us up and we certainly looked after our mates.

“It was certainly something that bonded us guys together forever. That’s what we did – we looked after our mates. Our numbers are starting to thin out a bit now and I’ve got no intentions to add to that, but we’re in contact from time to time. 

“I’d have to be the last Vietnam bloke who was still serving in government. I don’t know of any others.”

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Wieambilla visit amid coronial inquest preparations

(L-R) Constables Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare, and killers Nathaniel, Stacey and Gareth Train


PARTIES involved in the Coronial Inquest investigating the shooting deaths of six people on a secluded bush property at Wieambilla last December have visited the murder scene, amid preparations by police of a full report of the incident and a final brief of evidence.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Ruth O’Gorman KC, told a pre-inquest conference Thursday that the purpose of visiting Wieambilla was to help parties at the upcoming inquest better understand the layout of the site, where a Christian terrorist family murdered three police officers and a civilian.

“Accordingly, last month, all representatives who wanted to take up the opportunity, as well as Coroner’s Court staff including Your Honour, and unrepresented parties, took part in an on-site briefing conducted by Ethical Standards Command (ESC) investigators at the Wains Rd property,” O’Gorman said.

“Since the first pre-inquest conference, the extensive investigation into the deaths being undertaking by the QPS (Queensland Police Service) ESC, in consultation with Your Honour, has continued. 

Ruth O’Gorman KC (left), counsel assisting Coroner Terry Ryan. IMAGE: Country Caller

“The coronial report is now in the process of being prepared by the investigators and a number of expert reports are expected to be completed by the end of December 2023. 

“There are a number of active lines of enquiry that are still under investigation.”

Police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were gunned down at close range after entering the isolated property at 251 Wains Rd, Wieambilla, about 4.30pm on December 12.

The officers and two other colleagues were carrying out a welfare check on former school teacher Nathaniel Train, for whom an arrest warrant had earlier been issued over his unlawful entry into Queensland amid Covid border restrictions.

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Train, his brother Gareth Train and Gareth’s partner Stacey Train opened fire on the young officers in what investigators have said was a religiously-motivated terrorist attack targeting police.

The two surviving officers managed to escape the gunfire on foot while a neighbour at Wieambilla, 58-year-old Alan Dare, was shot dead after he approached the front gate a short time later to investigate smoke and sounds of gunfire coming from the property.

All three members of the Train family were killed by expert Special Emergency Response Team officers who stormed the property later that evening, about 10pm.

(Top L-R) Constable Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare (Bottom L-R) killers Nathaniel, Stacey and Gareth Train

The potential need for country police to be fitted with bulletproof vests and armed with rifles will be among the issues considered at the inquest, for which a five-week window has been set down ending in late August next year.

The first pre-inquest conference, held in June this year, heard 152 witness statements, 325 exhibits and six years worth of phone data were among the materials compiled by the ESC during its first six months of investigation.

At that earlier conference, O’Gorman said police bodyworn camera footage, aerial footage from police helicopters, and data from the Trains’ mobile phones and computer equipment would be among the materials examined during the inquest.

As well as three previously respected community members’ descent into murderous terrorism, the inquest will examine what measures could be taken to help prevent similar incidents from happening, and unfolding the way the Wieambilla shooting did, in the future.

The Train family’s property at Wieambilla, north of Tara, where the shooting occurred

“What did NSW police know about Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel Train at that time and what did they communicate to the QPS?,” O’Gorman said in June.

“Why is it that all four police officers attended that day?

“What happened between the time they jumped the fence and when shots were fired at them?

“Is it possible to know who fired the shots that caused their deaths?

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“What was it that prompted Mr Dare to attend the property? What did he know of what had transpired before he arrived?

“Were the four officers sufficiently armed and trained to respond to the incident?

“Why was it that each of Gareth, Stacey and Nathaniel fired shots at police on that day? How did they get to that point? What or who motivated or influenced them?”

O’Gorman said how police approach “liaising with the families of people involved in critical incidents as they unfold and in the immediate aftermath” would also receive consideration at the inquest.

A third pre-inquest conference has been set down for Tuesday, May 21 next year, ahead of the full inquest in August.

OPINION: Water debate coming to Qld’s kitchen tables

Dr Rebecca Vonhoff pictured with Cressbrook Dam.

By Dr Rebecca Vonhoff | OPINION

I GREW up on a farm on the Darling Downs and in those first few years, Mum would boil a kettle and pour the water in the bathtub. In ascending order of dirtiness, I would have the first bath, then Mum, and lastly Dad.

That meagre amount of water had to do the lot of us. We were always conserving water and I’ve lived by the mantra, “You dig a well before you need it.”

In the years since, I’ve lived in Brisbane (among other places) but Toowoomba is home and it’s where we’ve decided to raise our family.

I was in Toowoomba in 2006 when a plebiscite saw a proposal to introduce recycled water rejected by our community 62-38 and have lived through more
dry years than not.

South-East Queensland is growing. The State Government recently forecast that over the next 25 years, the population will increase by 2.2 million people.

Folks are coming principally from New South Wales and Victoria (who wouldn’t?) as well as from overseas through immigration.

More people means we will need more water.

Water security has largely been an issue consigned to regional and rural Queensland. But no more.

Councillor Vonhoff at Cressbrook Dam, which supplies Toowoomba’s drinking water. IMAGE: Supplied

A few weeks ago Seqwater released its 30-year roadmap for supplying water to South-East Queensland, flagging the need for “major enhancement” to existing water sources by 2035.

That “major enhancement” will likely be a multi-billion-dollar desalination plant to complement the existing Gold Coast plant.

The Water Security Program 2023 document also says recycling water for industry and agriculture using the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme is part of the solution.

Then: “The scheme will also continue to remain a drought response measure.”

Which means if water levels get low enough, recycled water will be used for drinking. What remains unclear is if there will even be a choice.

Population projections and Queensland’s current approach to water security suggest we might not end up drinking either desalinated water or
recycled water. It could be both.

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The need for climate resilient water resources such as desalination and recycling is used currently to justify not building dams.

An aspect of a changing climate, though, is more intense rain events. Toowoomba Region has three dams and last year when they filled over three days of torrential rain, I lamented that if we’d had a fourth dam, it too, would have filled, giving us potentially an extra decade of water security and positioning us to ride out the weather pattern we seem to have fallen into: Flood followed by 10 years of drought. A fourth dam might also have served as an important flood mitigation measure.

Yes, dams are expensive. Yes, they take a long time to build. But should they be part of the suite of solutions to combat drought as we accommodate millions of additional people in South-East Queensland?


Water security has been front of mind for Toowoomba Region residents for decades.

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But now water security isn’t just an issue for us – it’s an issue for everyone. The South-East Queensland water grid connects us all, making local government boundaries somewhat obsolete.

From Warwick to Toowoomba, through Brisbane, Logan, Gold Coast, Moreton, Noosa, Ipswich, Redlands and beyond; we’re all connected by pipes and pumps.

With millions of extra people needing to turn on the tap over decades and debate about desalination, recycled water and dams, water security is about to rocket up the list of priorities for people regardless of whether they live in metropolitan, region or rural Queensland.

The debate is coming to kitchen tables across the state.

**Dr Rebecca Vonhoff is Deputy Mayor of Toowoomba Regional Council where she is also Chair of the Water and Waste Portfolio.

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