Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Miles off the mark

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Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles has shown scant regard for the residents of Weipa, completely ignoring questions regarding normalisation.

Mr Miles, who is also the Local Government Minister, didn’t even bother to address the questions put to him by Cape York Weekly.

Steven Miles
Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Steven Miles seemingly doesn’t care if Weipa’s long-term future is in the hands of a mining company. Photo: Cape York Weekly

As Weipa suffers from a lack of future planning from Rio Tinto, with a major shortage of housing, child care and other infrastructure, the one man who has influence in Brisbane is simply ignoring the problem.

Normalising Weipa into a local government area has been a topic of conversation for two decades.

Cape York Weekly can reveal that an independent report from 14 years ago, commissioned by the state government, recommended that Weipa’s local governance issues be rectified immediately.

Yet nothing has happened.

“There should be no unincorporated areas in Queensland,” said the 2007 report submitted by the Local Government Reform Commission.

In regards to Weipa, the report stated: “This should be achieved through state government progressing negotiations with Rio Tinto regarding the normalisation of Weipa Town”.

On Wednesday last week, a number of questions were put to the office of Mr Miles, including an invitation for the Deputy Premier to pick up the phone and be interviewed.

These are the questions sent to Mr Miles’ media representative last week.

  • In 2019, the state government said it was committed to working with Rio Tinto to begin the process of normalising Weipa as a town. That progress appears to have stalled. What are the state government’s plans regarding the normalisation of Weipa?
  • In 2007, the state government received a report from the Local Government Reform Commission which recommended that Unincorporated Areas should be abolished. That included Sweers Island (now Mornington Island council) and the Weipa Town area. Why has nothing happened in that 14-year period?
  • From a state government perspective, what needs to happen for Weipa to become a normalised community?

Cape York Weekly received a response at 5.28pm on Friday and the response didn’t answer any of the questions.

In a cowardly move, the MP had his departmental staff reply with: “The Queensland Government is open to further discussions with the community, Traditional Owners and Rio Tinto about the possibility of transitioning responsibility over time.

“However, no decision has been made to progress to a Local Government.”

Zero answers.

So far, Member for Cook Cynthia Lui has been silent on the normalisation issue, as have Rio Tinto’s executives.

This week, we will request interviews with all the key players and see if they are willing to discuss Weipa’s future.

Cape York Weekly 29 June 2021

This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 29 June 2021.

Related story: No plan for Weipa: Rio Tinto dragging its heels on normalisation


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