Meet the Climate Hub Advisory Panel: Rod Ferguson
Rod has over 40 years of experience working for regional local governments in Queensland and is now the CEO of the Whitsundays Regional Council. For the past five years he has worked with a variety of regional councils in both consultancy roles and as Director/CEO in short term contracts.
Notably, Rod led the amalgamation of the Southern Downs Regional Council in 2008 and in 2013 he was appointed by the State Government to lead the de-amalgamation of the Mareeba Shire Council.
Rod is recognised for his ability to effectively manage complex teams and building strong relationships across local government, industry and community. He has a keen interest in the impacts of climate change on our local community and is committed to providing support to the Whitsunday Climate Change Innovation Hub.
Tell us about yourself, how did you end up in the Whitsunday area?
I have worked for various regional councils across Queensland. Over the past five years I have been in more of a consulting or short-term contract capacity. So, when such a great full-time role become available in the beautiful Whitsundays, I jumped at the opportunity.
I have great respect for Mayor Andrew Willcox, so working with his team and the wider Whitsunday Region was a great fit for me. I was also keen to continue my career in a community that has a real dedication to the coast and a focus on the environment and our future livability.
“I haven’t worked for a council that has such a strong focus on the environment and climate change. It was one of the attractions to the role.”
How is your first year in the role going?
It’s going really well! The local government of the Whitsundays is lucky to have a great team involved in its running. From the staff, the counsellors and the community itself, it’s a pleasure to work alongside great people – that’s the beauty of this industry.
“Contributing to the community, working with great people and facing challenging issues at times is all personally rewarding for me.”
What value do you see the Hub contributing to the Whitsunday Regional Council? Why is it important that our region has a Climate Hub?
I grew up on a rural dairy farm and climate change wasn’t in our vocabulary. Changes to our environment have since become an everyday reality and it has taken a while for people to acknowledge it. We need to do something to address climate change and the Hub is our avenue to do so.
“The Climate Hub provides research and scientific fact to help governments, whether local, state or federal, to tackle climate change. It’s opening doors for us.”
Every council member will get something different out of the Climate Hub. Personally, I am fascinated by the insurance industry component. Climate change is directly affecting the cost of insurance for both people and businesses. This impacts the average citizen and the pockets of our community. If the Hub’s research can encourage governments to provide support for issues such as this, then that’s a win.
What do you think are the biggest environmental issues for our local residents?
“The impact on the reef. It is one of the true natural wonders of the world and we need to understand the changes required in our habits to protect it.”
The Great Barrier Reef is at the heart of the Whitsundays’ tourism offering. With a strong tourism industry comes jobs, pride in the community and economic benefit. As climate change continues to impact our reefs, it threatens one of our biggest local industries and will eventually have huge repercussions on our community.
Recently, we’ve been working on our land-based tourism by promoting the incredible countryside and national parks of North Queensland. However, climate change impacts these areas too, meaning that this opportunity could also be lost.
What is it like to be part of the hub’s panel?
“The Panel has a diverse collection of people sitting on it, all of whom have an impressive range of knowledge.”
I’m learning; I see the Panel as an opportunity to understand the science behind climate change and how I can assist from a local government perspective. It gives me a snapshot into how climate change impacts the current and future livability of the Whitsunday region. I am also in a better position to educate council members and staff on the mounting issues that come with climate change and what we can do to mitigate them.