Torres Strait Islands
|Area:||491.1 km² (189.6 sq mi)|
|Mayor:||Cr Fred Gela|
|Council Seat:||Thursday Island|
|Region:||Far North Queensland|
The Torres Strait Islands Region is a Local Government Area located in Far North Queensland, Australia, covering part of the Torres Strait Islands. It was created in March 2008 out of 15 autonomous Island Councils during a period of statewide local government reform. It is administered from, but has no control over, Thursday Island.
The Region was created on 15 March 2008 from 15 previous entities—the Island Councils of Badu, Boigu, Dauan, Erub, Hammond, Iama, Kubin, Mabuiag, Mer, Poruma, Saibai, St Pauls, Ugar, Warraber and Yorke. Its first election was held on the same day.
In 1984, the Community Services (Torres Strait) Act was enacted by the Queensland Government, allowing community councils to be created to own and administer former reserves or missions under a Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT). Each was responsible for local basic utilities and services such as electricity, housing and management of local CDEP programs. They also worked with the Queensland Police to provide for community police officers—hence extending well beyond the normal functions of local government. The Local Government (Community Government Areas) Act 2004 extended to community councils many of the provisions and benefits of the Local Government Act 1993 normally enjoyed by shire councils.
In 2006, the councils were involved in a consultation process which resulted in a Green Paper being produced. The State Government subsequently took over the process, and in April 2007, a White Paper entitled "Community Government in the Torres Strait: the way forward" was released, recommending both governance and structural changes to ensure the sustainability of governance in the region. The White Paper expressed concerns about workload and capacity to meet community needs, deficiencies in corporate governance and accountability and other challenges and issues. The Local Government Reform report in July 2007 recommended the creation of the Torres Strait Islands council as well as the Northern Peninsula Area council to attempt to address these issues. The Queensland Government responded by proposing the Local Government and Other Legislation (Indigenous Regional Councils) Amendemnt Bill 2007 to bring the two new councils into line with the recommendations of both reports.
Because of the unique structure of the DOGIT areas, where a community owned the land and the council represented the community owners, concerns were raised by the councils about ownership potentially transferring to the new entities and diluting their title over it. Some councils responded by creating a private company with all community members as shareholders, and transferring the ownership to the company. This was opposed by the State Government who threatened to take legal action against the communities.
Following the elections, the Department of Local Government provided $675,000 to the Regional Council to assist with expenses relating to the post-amalgamation transfer process.
The council consists of 15 divisions, each of which represents one of the former entities and elects one councillor, with a mayor being elected by the entire region. At the 2008 election, the following councillors were elected:
The Region is effectively colocated with the Shire of Torres, which administers the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula and a number of islands including Thursday Island, Horn Island and Prince of Wales Island. During statewide local government reform in 2007-08, the Queensland Government considered merging the Shire with the other islands and communities, but felt that having one council subject to three different types of legislation would be inefficient.
At the 2006 ABS census, the area had a population of 4,298, an increase from 3,958 at the 2001 census and 3,499 at the 1996 census.