Feb 18, 2018

The Bushveld in north west Queensland

The Bushveld in north west Queensland New spas baths the McKinlay Shire Council has installed in Julia Creek

He’s just come home from a hard day’s work. His eyes are slits as they take in the vast horizon located beyond the bushveld, just short of the setting sun.

He sits on the stoep and considers lighting the Braai to cook Boerewors and steak for dinner, which will be complimented by slap chips.

Thinking about it makes him hungry and he reaches for some biltong.

He notices movement. A figure is siloueted against the dusk.

A wallaby.

Wait. No. What? There are no wallabies in South Africa.

That’s because the South African is in Australia and the savannah grasslands of the north-west were similar in both scope and imagination to his homeland said McKinlay Shire CEO Peter Fitchat.

Mr Fitchat has been resident in McKinlay for 18 months and describes himself as fully-fledged Australian, after being immersed in the culture for more than 20 years.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Mr Fitchat did stints as asset manager in Augusta Margaret River Shire, and Project Manager at Carnarvon Shire as past positions when mining was running hot.

He came to local government in Queensland assuming a variety of engineering positions including at Nebo (now Isaac) West Coast Tasmania and Cloncurry before taking up the CEO’s position at neighbouring McKinlay Shire Council.

McKinlay is one of Outback Queensland local government areas with a population of little more than 1000 covering more than 40,800 square kms.

Among other features, it hosts the word’s richest silver mine in South 32’s Cannington operation.

Council is faced with a five percent plus population disruption with the possible advent of the St Elmo Vanadium mine project.

They were prepared said Mr Fitchat.

“We have the big ticket items covered,” he said. “The sewage treatment plant has been upgraded and we have heaps of empty blocks to handle accommodation needs.

“We’ve added to playgrounds in the three centres, McKinlay, Julia Creek and Kynuna and tourist facilities have been upgraded.

“There’s now a hot artesian spa at the caravan park, so when you’re next in town and need to relax, that’s the place to go.

“We’ve four new business open their doors in town including baker, tyre-center and florist and our next project is the upgrade of the main street, funding permitted.”

It’s all ahead for McKinlay under the stewardship of this Wallaby-loving South African–Australian who’s making a contribution where he feels very much at home, with a focused and forward thinking Mayor Belinda Murphy and her four Councilors.

That’s Wallaby as in rugby and though he has a penchant for the native wildlife too, he said he does miss the big game, which populate the bushveld of his youth.

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