26 February 2024

Outgoing chair signals 'changing of the guard' in Weipa

| Lyndon Keane
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After 16 years as chair of the Weipa Town Authority, Michael Rowland is not seeking reelection and says it’s time for “new blood, new vision and new enthusiasm” in the remote Cape York township. Photo: Cape York Weekly.

Weipa Town Authority (WTA) Chair Michael Rowland does not miss a beat in response to the question of whether he will be stepping down following next month’s Queensland local government elections.

“That’s absolutely, one hundred per cent correct,” he laughs.

In case there was any lingering doubt, the four-term elected representative adds that his assertion is “unequivocal”.

“After 16 years, it’s time for new blood, new vision and new enthusiasm,” Mr Rowland said.

The WTA is set for a major leadership shift on 16 March, 2024, with Mr Rowland not being the only member set to step away from the local government spotlight.

The Cape York Weekly understands that, of the four elected members in the seven-person leadership group, only Jaime Gane will be seeking reelection, leaving three spots vacated by Mr Rowland, Deputy Chair Stretch Noonan and Dave Donald.

Mr Rowland described the timing of the shift at the top of the WTA organisational structure “a bit like a changing of the guard”, and urged Weipa residents to consider nominating as a candidate to lead the township through the next four years of its evolution.

“It’s interesting times for Weipa,” he admitted as he reflected on nearly two decades of service.

“We only need four [candidates for the elected positions] but it would be good if we could have five, six or seven put their hand up.”

With debate about the normalisation of Weipa from its current Rio Tinto-controlled format to a conventional local government likely to remain the elephant in the room over the next four years, Mr Rowland said he believed the community needed an injection of youth in its leadership.

READ ALSO Politicians have their say on Weipa normalisation

“We need fresh, young vision to start stepping up and having a go,” he said.

The outgoing chair also took aim at WTA critics who continued to fire shots from the safety of their loungerooms.

“It’s one thing to be one of these keyboard warriors to actually nominating [as an elected member],” he told the Cape York Weekly.

“It’s very different when you put your hand up and make the commitment to deliver.”

In addition to the four elected members, who are voted in by eligible residents on the electoral roll, two WTA members are appointed by Rio Tinto, with the seventh member appointed by the Alngith Traditional Owners.

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