Rio Tinto is responsible for the administration of the town, which it carries out through the Weipa Town Authority (WTA). The WTA acts in the role of Local Authority, with staff that one would normally associate with a local council.
The services supplied and maintained through the WTA are similar to those supplied by local councils throughout Australia, and include road maintenance, water supply, town planning, garbage collection, parks, ovals, libraries and public swimming pools.
Comalco Act and Agreement
The Weipa Town Area is governed by RTA Weipa Pty Ltd (RTAW) by virtue of the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty Limited Agreement Act 1957 (Qld) (Comalco Act) and the Comalco Aluminium Corporation Pty Ltd Agreement (Comalco Agreement), within the limitations set out by those instruments.
Clause 45 of the Comalco Agreement allows RTAW to exercise the majority of the powers conferred on a local government under the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld) (2009 LG Act) over particular areas of land.
The Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Pty Limited Agreement (Weipa Town Area) Regulation 1994:
- excluded certain lots of land (described as the "area") from the Shire of Cook;
- provided that the excluded "area" is called the Weipa Town Area; and
- constituted Weipa as a "local government area" for the purposes of the 1993 LG Act and the Comalco Act.
This means that currently RTAW governs the Weipa Town Area by virtue of the Comalco Act and Agreement, within the limitations set out by those instruments, as if it were the local authority for the Weipa Town Area. While the Comalco Regulation expired in September 2005, this does not affect the operation of the Comalco Agreement or undo the exclusion of the area from the Shire of Cook.
Establishing the Weipa Town Authority
The WTA developed originally from the Weipa Citizens Advisory Committee, which was established by the predecessor of RTAW in 1997 to assist with the governance of Weipa. The advisory committee, which acts as though it were a local council, has a Chair (akin to a Mayor) and Members (akin to Councillors) and is the creation of RTAW to assist in the exercise of its governing rights under the Agreement.
The WTA is comprised of four elected Community Representatives, two Rio Tinto appointed representatives and one appointed Traditional Owner representative. Like outside Councils, the WTA meets once per month and makes decisions on local government matters, such as town planning, community development, infrastructure, services, and local government rates and charges.
In essence, the WTA endeavours to operate and function as though it were a local government constituted and established under the 2009 LG Act. The only areas where the WTA is unable (due to its reliance on the Comalco Agreement and Act rather than constitution as a local government under the 2009 LG Act) to act like a local government are as follows:
- Loan and budget requirements;
- Major works contracts for the town (eg. town cleaning and waste management);
- Major infrastructure provision; and,
- The development/release of land and changes to Weipa Town boundaries.