Interview: Mayor of Southern Downs Regional Council

Smart farming, drones and budget feedback.

Mayor Tracy Dobie talks about smart farming and apps for citizens . What is your vision for the region? Our vision for the Southern Downs is to be economically strong and sustainable, and to have a community that is healthy, active and continually learning. We are a region that has strong horticulture, agriculture and livestock industries and a growing tourism industry. It is our goal to build on this for the future. How will technology help? The National Broadband Network has given us access to the latest in internet technology. We are also using modern technology to assist with our horticulture, agriculture and livestock industries, such as using drones for pest management. How will you develop your digital services? NAT_6543 We are communicating with our residents through the MYSDRC [South Downs Regional Council] App. This application allows customers to lodge and track requests and access Councillor contacts, and it also allows Council to provide the latest news and issue alerts in case of a disaster. How is the region using feedback from residents? We are using feedback to empower residents and get them involved in the region’s management. This year we put our draft Budget out for public consultation and invited feedback and submissions on how we could improve it. We will continue to do this for the Budget and other Council initiatives. What has been the biggest challenge that the region overcame in 2016? The biggest challenge to our region is the weather. We have been in drought for some years and have just had the wettest and warmest Winter and Spring on record. Our wet season is about to begin and while we have suffered with floods in the past, we are hoping that 2016 will not result in a flood. What is your top priority for 2017? My top priority next year will be to bring more businesses, more residents and more tourists to the Southern Downs. What is the biggest area of spending for the region? The biggest area of spending is capital works and the majority of this is on roads and bridges. We have over 7000 square kilometres of territory which has many bridges and 15,000 kilometres of urban streets and rural roads. If I were to visit your region, what one place would you recommend? I would recommend the National Parks of the Southern Downs. It includes the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest of the Main Range National Park and the cascading water of the Queen Mary Falls.