26 February 2024

Incoming WTA chair puts bullseye on locally-driven Weipa growth

| Lyndon Keane
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Jaime Gane will replace outgoing Weipa Town Authority Chair Michael Rowland after being elected unopposed for the organisation’s top job. Photo: Supplied.

Being elected unopposed is allowing incoming Weipa Town Authority (WTA) chair Jaime Gane to bypass campaign mode and focus instead on priorities she says are critical to the long-term sustainability of the western Cape York community.

On 13 February, 2024, the WTA returning officer announced Ms Gane was the sole nomination to replace long-serving Chair Michael Rowland, who is set to walk away from public life after representing the Weipa community for 16 years.

With Mr Rowland, Deputy Chair Stretch Noonan and Dave Donald not seeking re-election, the next WTA elected membership will be fresh faces around the boardroom table with the exception of Ms Gane, who will make a return, this time in the top job.

Speaking to Cape York Weekly, she said being elected unopposed would allow her to immediately shift her energy towards developing strategies the new-look WTA could use to drive local growth and development.

“It’s good that I don’t have to wait another month to find out, but I’ll take it,” she said.

“I kind of thought that someone might have put their hat in the ring; they haven’t had an unopposed spot for chair in their memory, so I’m not sure the last time it happened.”

READ ALSO Outgoing chair signals ‘changing of the guard’ in Weipa

One key objective on the incoming chair’s radar is working with stakeholders to ensure there is adequate land to allow business and residential growth within Weipa, especially in terms of housing availability and affordability.

“Everyone needs housing for all their staff, and everyone’s been struggling with that,” Ms Gane said.

“I’m committed to working with Rio to open up more land for economic and social growth.

“My focus will be more on to do what we can do, and opening up opportunities that aren’t reliant on Rio.”

The transformation of Weipa to a conventional local government is likely to remain at the periphery of decision makers over the coming four years, however, Ms Gane said she believed WTA would better serve the community by targeting self-controlled wins, rather than waiting to see whether Rio Tinto or the State Government developed an appetite to take the first steps of the normalisation waltz.

“It can be our priority all we want, but if it’s not Rio’s, and it’s not the State Government’s, it’s better to spend our time planning and developing things we can control,” she said without hesitation.

“I’ll probably just focus on progress towards being more sustainable; normalisation is not even a thing I’m thinking of at the moment.”

READ ALSO Rio Tinto drags its heels on normalising Weipa

When asked about the six candidates who had nominated to fill the three elected WTA vacancies, Ms Gane said she was impressed by the quality of Weipa residents standing up to represent the township.

“I’m stoked with the candidates we’ve got,” she said.

“There’s some great people who have put their hand up; they are very active in the community, so that’s fantastic.

“It will be nice to have some new fresh perspectives … to take a new look at the long-running battles WTA has been having, and some new ideas.

“It’s always good to have someone new come in and go ‘what about this?”

The elected representatives will join the two members appointed by Rio Tinto, and the member appointed by Alngith Traditional Owners to form a seven-person leadership team.


Order as per Weipa Town Authority notice of poll

SCHARF, Lisa Kaye
DUFFY, Deborah Ann
HACKETT, Scott Robert Lee
GORDON, Trent James
ROBINS, Geoffrey Philip
SHAW, Gemma Elizabeth

Six candidates will vie for the three elected Weipa Town Authority member positions on 16 March, 2024. Photo: Facebook (Weipa Town Authority).

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