Jobs headache for new shire

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols

ONE of the first jobs for the new Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil when its starts on Jan­uary 1 will be to con­sider the po­si­tion of those staff trans­ferred to it by Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil which are ex­cess to the new shire’s needs.

Un­der the de-amal­ga­ma­tion reg­u­la­tions Dou­glas is re­quired to place peo­ple be­ing trans­ferred from Cairns into the Dou­glas struc­ture where pos­si­ble, and where they can’t ‘‘mean­ing­fully’’ be placed their name has to go on a list to the newly elected Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil af­ter Jan­uary 1 for its con­sid­er­a­tion.

It was re­ported last month that 30 po­si­tions would be trans­ferred to Dou­glas Shire. But it is un­der­stood that the new shire will have jobs for only 14 of th­ese peo­ple.

Cur­rent staff num­bers booked to the shire are 114, be­ing staff who had been work­ing in the Dou­glas area al­ready. Th­ese peo­ple were ad­vised in July that they would trans­fer across on Jan­uary 1. The CEO of the ‘‘con­tin­u­ing coun­cil’’, in this Cairns, has the task of draw­ing up the list of po­si­tions be­ing handed to the new shire. Un­der this mech­a­nis the CRC could have trans­ferred up to 165 peo­ple to Dou­glas but had pulled back some­what from that fig­ure by in­clud­ing 18 va­can­cies in the list of 163 po­si­tions be­ing trans­ferred.

The full de-amal­ga­ma­tion will oc­cur on Jan­uary 1.

Trans­fer man­ager for Dou­glas, Mr Jeff Tate, said he would work with pub­lic ser­vice unions re­gard­ing the trans­fer of staff ex­cess to the po­si­tions avail­able. ‘‘The Cairns en­ter­prise agree­ment trans­fers across to Dou­glas and it has pro­vi­sions about vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies, there no forced re­dun­dan­cies’’.

But if there were staff who did not take up the vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies, the sit­u­a­tion is clouded, he said. ‘‘The clauses don’t quite fit the sit­u­a­tion,’’ Mr Tate said, ‘‘be­cause when the work agree­ments were drawn up no-one en­vis­aged de-amal­ga­ma­tion. It will be a le­gal ques­tion and right now I don’t have an an­swer to that but I will soon. I would add that we are work­ing with unions as well.’’

There had been a call for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est among the CRC staff for those look­ing to move to the new shire coun­cil, and ‘‘we got a few’’, Mr Tate said. Apart from that, the new shire had ad­ver­tised some va­cant man­age­ment and spe­cial­ist po­si­tions in or­der to fill them.

Among those re­cently re­cruited are a new head of wa­ter and waste man­age­ment, Mr Wouter Van Der Merwe (53), a wa­ter sci­en­tist and chemist orig­i­nally from South Africa who took up a job with the Cra­dle Moun­tain Wa­ter Corp in Tas­ma­nia in 2009. He is mar­ried and now lives in Cooya.

Along­side him is the new head of fi­nance and IT for the shire, Mr Ju­lian Porter (30), an ac­coun­tant who hails orig­i­nally from Bal­larat and was most re­cently work­ing for a ho­tels group in Dar­win. He is not en­tirely new to this re­gion, hav­ing worked for three years in Cairns some years ago (where he played for the Saints AFL team). He is mar­ried and has bought a prop­erty in Port Dou­glas.

Both of­fi­cers speak very highly of the mo­tiv- ation and the at­ti­tude of the staff they are work­ing with now. Mr Porter says there are worth­while man­age­ment ad­van­tages to ‘‘declus­ter­ing’’ away from the CRC. Mr Van Der Merwe speaks well of the wa­ter and waste­water in­fra­struc­ture he has taken over. ‘‘It’s good,’’ he says. ‘‘We need a wa­ter plan for the Shire and the in­fra­struc­ture gives us a good base for that.’’ Both men view the set­ting up of the new shire struc­ture as an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for them­selves and the com­mu­nity they serve.

‘‘The thing to re­alise,’’ says Mr Porter, ‘‘is that this is not the old shire back again – it’s a whole new shire be­ing cre­ated.’’

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

NEW FACES AT THE SHIRE: Wouter Van Der Merwe and Ju­lian Porter

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