RECOGNITION: Former Chinchilla Shire mayor Bill McCutcheon, pictured with his wife Barbara, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal.
RECOGNITION: Former Chinchilla Shire mayor Bill McCutcheon, pictured with his wife Barbara, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal. Alana Calvert

Former mayor receives OAM for life of service

THE interior walls of Bill McCutcheon's Chinchilla home are testament to a life of service to local government, sport and community.

Adorned with awards and other framed tokens of recognition, there is almost little hanging space left for Mr McCutcheon's latest honour, which will soon take pride of place as his greatest.

The very last mayor of Chinchilla Shire Council was officially announced today as a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal for his "service to local government and to the community of the Western Downs”.

Mr McCutcheon had been a Brigalow farmer when he first entered local government in 1985; a time when serving on the Chinchilla Shire Council was almost a voluntary affair, before he was elected mayor of Chinchilla Shire Council in 2000.

"27 or 30 years ago you were certainly doing it for the love of the thing,” Mr McCutcheon said.

"Going on council was always something that I wanted to do... I thought I could contribute to the local community.

"We met once or twice a month in those early days. It's much, much more intense now. (It was) virtually voluntary. You got paid meeting fees and you got paid a little bit of a travel allowance to go to things but that's about all.

"You would have been starving if you had only council (income) to rely on in those days.”

During the same period Mr McCutcheon helped form the natural resource management committee that would become the peak statutory body now known as the Condamine Alliance, a legacy he takes great pride in.

"When I first got involved they were using a chemical called endosulfan on cotton and they were spraying up to 12 times a year and it was quite a dangerous chemical. It was turning up in waterways everywhere but nobody was doing anything about it.. Nobody knew the extent of the problem until the Condamine-Balonne Water Committee started a water quality monitoring program up and down the river,” he said.

Thanks to the voluntary water monitoring conducted by Mr McCutcheon and other members of the committee, the cotton industry discontinued the use of endosulfan - a highly toxic chemical that was banned in Australia in 2010.

As mayor from 2000 to 2008, Mr McCutcheon had the task of leading Chinchilla Shire Council through the controversial forced amalgamation, and then the sudden dramatic take-off of industry: The western connector powerline, the Kogan Creek Power Station, and then the coal seam gas industry all following in quick succession.

"That was one of the most rewarding days I had in council when I was mayor... and all that was going on,” he said.

"Chinchilla was the focus of everybody's attention for a while.”

But Mr McCutcheon insists none of these challenges could have been faced without the team that supported him first at Chinchilla Shire Council and then at the Western Downs Regional Council, or his wife of 55 years.

"Without Barb there's no way I could have (done) all I did, that's for sure,” he said.

Bill McCutcheon will be awarded his OAM by the Governor-General at a ceremony in Brisbane at a later date.

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