Mar 27, 2018

Richmond leader in for the long haul

Richmond leader in for the long haul

They tend to hold on to their mayors in north-west Queensland’s Richmond Shire.

There’ve been two since 1964.

That’s when the Beatles toured Australia, Cyclone Dora struck the north and Dawn Fraser was named ‘Australian of the Year’.

Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton.

Councillor John Wharton has worn the robes for the last 21 years and is currently the longest serving mayor still in the job in Queensland.

Cr Wharton puts his longevity down to three factors: a willingness to lead, communication and clean water.

“My belief has always been that the working man and woman voted you in for foursyears to do what they expect, so make the decision and follow it through,” he said.

“You’ll be there a long time if you make the right decisions.

“Don’t be half baked about it. Eighty per cent want it, 10 per cent don’t and the other 10 per cent, you can’t please any way.”

Richmond is firing against the odds.

The Flinders Highway community has been through six years of drought and recorded four years of growth, according to Cr Wharton.

“A fuel company is planning to build the best roadhouse between Townsville and Mount Isa, with a 30-room motel, road train access and a big shop,” he said.

“They’re investing $3 million to $4 million and that’s what you get when you have a stable economy.

“There are jobs and you can’t rent a house. The school is full and so is after-school care. Day care for early education has increased in capacity from 25-50 children. We’ve built a new council headquarters. It has been like that for the last couple of years.”

Central to the progress was the provision of clean smelling water and the $6 million spent upgrading the water treatment plant was the best investment council had made, Cr Wharton said.

Upgrading the water treatment plant has paid off.

“Livability is important,” he said. “We’re treating water from two bores, taking out the smell and some of the minerals.

“It was against a lot of negativity. I knew it was right and a year after that we won the ‘best water’ in Queensland title and went on to win the national competition.

“We were up against Orange in New South Wales. Orange has 40,000 people, Richmond has 700.

“When you have good water people will come and live. I think a lot of councils in Queensland need to address that. You’ve got to build a community where people want to live.”

Cr Wharton holds a lot of sway for a remote area local government representative and is not shy in his advocacy for a northern Australian state, smaller government and the development of agriculture as a sustainable future for the north.

It’s something he can influence as chair of the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing North Australia and, despite being a while away from challenging the departed Fred Tritton’s 32 years as Richmond Shire Mayor, Cr Wharton still has time to see his vision through.


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