Margaret de Wit elected LGAQ President

By Paul Hemsley

Brisbane City Councillor Margaret de Wit has defeated Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O’Connell to secure the presidency of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).

The win means Ms de Wit has become the first female president of the LGAQ in its 116 year history and her agenda will involve cutting back debt and taking council demands to Queensland Premier and former Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman when budgets are being decided.

Ms de Wit has already served as one of the LGAQ’s four directors and will take up the four year term at the conclusion of today’s LGAQ Annual Conference.

Her election to the top job follows Central Highlands Councillor Paul Bell’s resignation from the role this month to pursue the leadership of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in November.

If successful, it will be the second time Mr Bell serves as ALGA president. He has said that he plans to focus on constitutional recognition of local government.

Ms de Wit said constitutional recognition is vital for local government across Australia to ensure councils can still receive funding directly from the federal government.

“Councils do it tough,” Ms de Wit said. “They don’t get a lot of recognition for the work that they do and there are many issues that need to be addressed, like funding cuts and the loss of grants and subsidies.”

She said she has no qualms about political allegiances in terms of dealing with state and federal governments.

“I have very good working relationships with the Premier, Treasurer and the Minister for Local Government, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be knocking on their door if I’m not happy with what we are getting from George Street.

“I believe I can also work just as effectively with the federal minister and anyone else at that level,” she said.

Mr Newman has welcomed Ms de Wit’s election victory, stating that “new era of co-operation had dawned between the State and Local Governments”

He said that co-operation would only be strengthened following today’s announcement.

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