Toowoomba Region Mayor, Paul Antonio has acknowledged the efforts put in by all the emergency services, community, and even the military in fighting the recent fires.
“Oh, it’s been absolutely amazing,” Mayor Antonio said in the podcast interview above.
“And something that I, as the mayor, am very, very proud of, was the way this community came together.
“And many elements.
“Even those who were serving in the military around here were putting tremendous efforts into it.
“Not only did they help us with food and all that sort of thing, but of course they have some very high-tech imaging helicopters that flew out there.
“And in fact they were capable of making sure that they knew what was happening in the fire ground.
“They knew where the dangers were.
“All of these things came together to make a tremendous effort.”
Further, Mayor Antonio cautioned that the risk of further fires would continue through the Christmas period if weather conditions didn’t become favourable.
Read the Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio Thanks Emergency Services and Community podcast TRANSCRIPT
McCarthy-Wood: Thank you very much for your company, once again. Look, we have a very, very busy person on the phone. Mayor Paul Antonio. Paul Antonio, how are you?
Mayor Antonio: Very well, thanks. Yourselves?
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, good, good. Look, we have Daryl Nicholson on the line as well. It’s been a really, really busy time, but Toowoomba, no secret, has been under a whole lot of threats. Everything from the water supply coming under pressure, fires around the region. In fact, there were news reports that some of the water infrastructure started to fail because of those fires. But there’s been emergency services that have been stepping up to the plate defending the town of Toowoomba, but the broader region. Toowoomba is a really, really big place that has lots of regional areas that… they’re doing it tough. It’s no secret it’s been very dry in South West Queensland as of late. So Darryl, you want to have a talk with the mayor in relation to all of this?
Daryl Nicholson: I do. Thanks Andrew. Thanks Paul for your time today, mate. I was at the Toowoomba Safer Regional Parks Partnerships meeting a couple of weeks ago with Geoff McDonald, and he spoke about not only the work the fire emergency services are doing, but also the police, the SES and Queensland Ambulance. We lit up city hall there last week and you thanked them again, but mate, tell us now that what’s happening Ravensbourne, Peachey and the Millmerran area, which is really close to your heart. How things going out there?
Mayor Antonio: Well Ravensbourne, Peachey, of course, is under control at the moment. There’d still be a bit of internal burning, but there’s around about 20,000 hectares burnt there, and that’s massive by our standards. It was a fire that should probably never have happened. I believe… We’re not sure how it was lit, so we’ve got to be suspicious that it could have been deliberately lit. But I tell you what, the effort that went into it, the cooperation. We saw the likes of the Salvation Army producing around about 5,000 meals for the firemen. And a lot of those firemen were volunteers who were patrolling that. We had everybody involved. You’ve mentioned the police, the ambulance, the whole lot of them, the whole emergency services area. The fireman, of course, were controlling it all. We had people in from as far away as New Zealand helping fell trees. There were specialists in that area, when you’ve got piping trees. And it was really quite amazing the way it all went.
It was a very dangerous situation. And yes, we did lose a part of our water pumping capacity when the fire line into Cressbrook Dam was burnt. Saying that, as soon as it was possible to get in there, in goes the people from Energy Queensland. Ergon Energy they used to be. And they did an absolutely amazing job, as well. And they got that power reconnected in the Toowoomba water supply, which was in danger given that Cressbrook was down and Perseverance was under threat. That would have been catastrophic for the water supplies, but we managed to dodge that because there were people in there who burned back off the power line going into Perseverance. So we were very, very fortunate there and thank God that it worked out the way it did.
Daryl Nicholson: [crosstalk 00:03:07]
McCarthy-Wood: Mayor Paul Antonia, can you tell me… You being on the ground and witnessing all of this, what’s the sense of community? Has it strengthened through all of this?
Mayor Antonio: Oh, it’s been absolutely amazing. And something that I, as the mayor, am very, very proud of, was the way this community came together. And many elements. Even those who were serving in the military around here were putting tremendous efforts into it. Not only did they help us with food and all that sort of thing, but of course they have some very high-tech imaging helicopters that flew out there. And in fact they were capable of making sure that they knew what was happening in the fire ground. They knew where the dangers were. All of these things came together to make a tremendous effort.
In terms of the Millmerran fire, which is very close to my heart of course. That’s where I come from. And of course some of our properties were seriously under threat. We’ve got two properties that were in the fire line. One’s called Paddy’s Creek and one’s called Myalla and they were… it’s about four and a half thousand acres between those two. And that’s where we’ve got a lot of our cattle and they are struggling, those cattle. They don’t have much feed and a fire would have been devastating to us. And it was a very emotive time for me because I’ve been involved in firefighting for many years. And my son… I couldn’t get there, but my son was doing it all, and along with a lot of other people. And there’s some real heroes came out of that. The people who drive dozers all night. Didn’t stop for 15 hours, just to make sure they got around the fire while the fire wasn’t burning. So very lucky. Amazing community effort. Sad to see the houses burned out there. But we’ve got to support those people.
Daryl Nicholson: Paul, [crosstalk 00:04:44]
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, man. Paul Antonia. Yeah, Daryl, you go for it mate.
Daryl Nicholson: Sorry. Yeah, Paul. Look really, the community again… And at Christmas carols last night, I’m sure [inaudible 00:04:50] people of Toowoomba were really grateful what the Toowoomba Regional Council have put together. and again, your thanks to everyone there. You’re farce, you’re dedicated and you’re passionate about this region. That’s what I love about you. And I’m certainly putting out the prayers, and hopefully things are going to be good this week for Millmerran and all the areas around Toowoomba.
Mayor Antonio: Yep. And of course the thing we’ve got to be mindful of is that there are some seriously bad areas, if they were to catch on fire, they can have a dramatic effect on things here in Toowoomba and those smaller communities out there. We just pray that the fools will stop lighting fires and that we will, in fact, have a peaceful time. And of course we’re praying for rain. Everyday we pray for rain. And can I just say, just to give you an indication of how difficult the situation is. Gatton on Saturday. Temperature, 42.6 degrees. The highest ever recorded. The atmospheric moisture was 6%, which is catastrophic really. And around 40 K an hour westerly wind blowing. Those conditions bring about conditions that you would not want to put yourself involved with.
McCarthy-Wood: Mayor Paul Antonio, we’re heading into Christmas. As you said, we may not be out of the woods, so to speak, when it comes to the fires and the conditions that we’ve got. It may even get hotter over that Christmas period, as sometimes it does. For the community, can you tell us over the Christmas period, not withstanding the emergency services, they’re always there, but what about the Toowoomba Regional Council? How are they situated for supporting the community over that period?
Mayor Antonio: Well, we’ll do what is necessary to be done. And you know, we’ve thrown tremendous resources at the fire in terms of personnel, in terms of equipment, in terms of some of our infrastructure. We’ve helped with that. But in saying that, we’re facing a difficult period. And no matter what happens, our people, as always, will stand up and they’ll make absolutely sure that they do the right thing by their community, which we represent. I’m very proud to lead a community as compassionate as this. It’s a wonderful compassionate community and no matter where you go, or what you do. And you saw this come out with the fires with the way this community came together, they supported everybody. Anyone that needed anything was helped. And today I’ll be making a call to BlazeAid and I’ll be looking at how we can help those people. They’ve lost their fences and council will have to play their role in that, too.
McCarthy-Wood: Mayor Paula Antonio, you’re a very, very busy person. Thank you very much for your time with our listeners. But just finally, heading into Toowoomba, the pride, the effort that… You know, all of the challenges. If you are wanting to go and visit a place, head into those regional areas. I’m sure you might actually have a message around that. Because there are businesses out in these regional towns that are probably missing out because people are going, “Hey look, there’s fires.” We’ve been discussing Stanthorpe a lot and they’ve been experiencing that. Would you encourage people to get out there and maybe just, not get in the way, but still go and patronage a town and put some money into those economies?
Mayor Antonio: Oh, that’s great. And of course, we haven’t seen the worst of this terrible drought yet. When you look at the Antonio family’s business model, we are selling off our breeding herd bit by bit, as we have to. We are selling off next year’s income. And the worst has not hit us yet. But we’ll get through it. But it’s going to be a tough journey.
McCarthy-Wood: I know that you really do need to go, but just finally, and I was going to go a little bit quicker, but can you just let people know what they can actually do to help?
Mayor Antonio: Look, I think the important thing is support all those who are being impacted by this. And I think mental health is one of the biggest issues that I’ve seen coming out of this. You know, there’s an awful lot of pride around many of the males in agriculture today. And it hurts them terribly when they can’t feed their family, and all those sorts of things. So I think I’ve seen some amazing stuff done. Absolutely amazing stuff done, when people step up and they go out into the community and they make absolutely sure that the people that they know are impacted are being helped. That’s the greatest thing you can do. Show friendship, show support, because that’s the thing that sometimes is lacking for these people who are just suffering daily. And it is daily, as cattle die daily. Cattle and sheep and goats and whatever it might be. So thank you very much.
McCarthy-Wood: Mayor Paul Antonio, once again, thank you very much for your time with our listeners.
Mayor Antonio: Thank you.
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, Daryl, there you go. We’ve just heard from the mayor. Sorry we had to jump in and get through his interview because he is a very, very busy person. We had a very small window to take on that interview. But what do you think, what are your thoughts in relation to what Mayor Paul Antonio had to say?
Daryl Nicholson: Mate, I’ll tell you what, we do these podcasts each week and I want to thank Paul. I’m sure he’s probably broken the line now, he’s very busy. Every time we do these podcasts I’m trying to challenge myself each week, can we get more information, better information? And you know what? I had goosebumps. You asked that tough question, what can the Toowoomba community do? And he touched on just being there, and mental health and helping people. And men’s mental health. And mate, that’s an area I want to explore a bit further down the track and talk about some real issues there.
And I was just… Sorry, I just got goosebumps. And I’m just thinking, he’s got a business he’s running in Toowoomba. The council is a business, and he’s got a [inaudible 00:10:15] business. He’s got his own Antonio Family Trust that he’s running, and they’re into forecasting for the future and not seeing… I don’t want to bring bad news, but we’re in December now. What’s going to happen in January if we don’t get any rain? Where are we going to be?
It was really smokey out here in Stanthorpe yesterday, and it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it. I drove out here Saturday night. Visibility, I reckon it was down to 40 metres. Driving out from Warwick to Stanthorpe.
Mate, I just think you asked another great question today and got a great answer from someone who’s really… As I said, he’s farce, he’s dedicated and he’s passionate about Toowoomba. He really is.
McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. A moment of indulgence. I just want to take this time to encourage our listeners that… Maybe they’ve tuned into the podcast just simply because they’ve seen the headline on it that we’re interviewing Mayor Paul Antonio. But you and I have been really in the middle of this from a media perspective, and the podcasts and the great interviews that you keep lining up.
And through those conversations the resounding feedback that we have been getting in broadcasting wherever we possibly can is that, for those that are maybe in the cities, or they’re just thinking, “I’d like to get out for a country drive.” Or maybe they’re not, they want to head to the beach. Think about a country drive. Toowoomba, we were only there last Monday, I believe. You and I caught up and we conducted a few interviews. And I said it then. I’ll say it again. I was amazed at just the effort, for all of the challenges that have been presented right now, the effort that has been putt into beautifying, making sure that there is pride displayed. You mentioned just before we started recording that there were Christmas carols last night. Christmas Wonderland. There’s all of those great things to check out and visit.
But also those other towns like Millmerran and Stanthorpe. We talk about Stanthorpe a lot. That’s out of the Toowoomba region, but definitely you can make a beautiful drive up through the Toowoomba range, up and over, check out Toowoomba, check out some of these towns. Aratula, all of those sort of places out to Stanthorpe. Stanthorpe is… I think it’s in great shape, as well. When you look at that main street, it’s beautiful. And the hospitality of the communities out there. But just go and spend a little bit of time, and money, of course. Enjoy it. You’re not going to get nothing out of it. You’re going to have a great time, but at the exact same time you’re going to be helping out a community that needs our support right now.
Daryl Nicholson: That’s what they need, mate. They’re thankful for our prayers, but they need our support, and they need us to come out there and spend money to keep these businesses fighting because they are at the grips of life. It’s going to be a tough Christmas for people in these regions. And as John [Wagner 00:12:58] said about tourism, mate, he doesn’t care whether they go in Toowoomba to Darling Downs, just go somewhere, whether it be Gatton, [Dalby 00:00:13:03], Warwick, Stanthorpe. Just go somewhere and support these locals. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about community.
McCarthy-Wood: Daryl Nicholson, thank you very much for your time. What’s your tagline?
Daryl Nicholson: Toowoomba 4350 TV and Stanthorpe 4380 TV. They’re more than just postcodes. They’re community.