Lord Mayor Graham Quirk inside the Legacy Way tunnel. Picture: Darren England
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk inside the Legacy Way tunnel. Picture: Darren England

Quirk quits as Brisbane Lord Mayor

BRISBANE Lord Mayor Graham Quirk has announced today he is bowing out of politics after eight years in the city's top job and more than three decades in local government.

Speaking exclusively to The Courier-Mail, Cr Quirk said now was the "right time" for him to depart City Hall and hand the reins over to a new generation.

The Lord Mayor said he would be leaving with no regrets and no resentments, saying he was extremely proud of what his team had accomplished since he took up the role in 2011.

"I have tried to be a Lord Mayor for the times," he said.

"And I think if people reflect on it, I'm leaving Brisbane a much better place and I think a much (more) respected city in terms of its reputation. We've seen our city, under my Lord Mayoralty, mature both culturally and socially."

Cr Quirk said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Anne.

"There are significant demands on one's family in these roles and upon reflection I have decided that now is the time to go," the 62-year-old said. "While I'm still fit and healthy now, Anne and I have considered where we're going to be."

Lord Mayor Charis says the time is right for him to step out of politics.
Lord Mayor Charis says the time is right for him to step out of politics.

Cr Quirk's last day on the job will be April 7 - exactly eight years to the day he succeeded Campbell Newman as Lord Mayor.

He is stepping down 11 months out from the next council elections in March next year.

The LNP party room will meet on Sunday to determine who will replace him as Lord Mayor, with Deputy Mayor Adrian Schrinner shaping up as a key contender.

Reflecting on his time in the top job, Cr Quirk said his proudest achievement was creating a more inclusive and harmonious city.

"These are things that you can't necessarily in all cases touch and feel and will not be obvious to all people," he said.

"But for those where it does have an effect, it's extremely important to them."

Under his leadership, the council has delivered landmark infrastructure projects, including the Legacy Way Tunnel, which along with the Clem 7, Airport Link and Go Between Bridge, collectively take more than 120,000 vehicles from surface streets every day.

He has also aimed to make the city more accessible, rolling out 40 all-abilities playgrounds and making Brisbane's fleet of buses fully accessible.

More recently, the Quirk administration secured crucial funding to get its Brisbane Metro project off the ground, which is expected to improve travel times for commuters by up to 50 per cent when it launches in 2023.

Graham Quirk in 1997.
Graham Quirk in 1997.

Cr Quirk also pointed to his City of Lights program, which included the LED lighting of the Story and Victoria Bridges, as a way the city had matured under his Lord Mayoralty.

He also played a crucial role as the head of the South East Queensland Council of Mayors in attracting State and Federal Government support for a City Deal agreement to provide vital infrastructure.

And a feasibility study commissioned by the Council of Mayors has paved the way for a possible bid to host the Olympic Games.

But the Mt Coot-tha zip line project has attracted substantial community criticism in recent months.

His administration has also come under fire for its use of ratepayer money on council communications and advertisements.

Cr Quirk conceded it would be tough to move on from the Council, but said he was looking forward to life after politics. He said the first thing he had to do was "fix up Mrs Quirk's long list of requirements around the house".

"I've still got too much energy to retire (from work), but I want to continue to look at some interests in thoroughbred breeding," he said.

"And also I might even try a bit of auctioneering, something I've done for a lot of charities over the years. No fixed plans."

He said he was also looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his three daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Charlotte.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk with Charlotte, wife Anne, Sarah and Elizabeth. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk with Charlotte, wife Anne, Sarah and Elizabeth. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

Cr Quirk said it had been tough to balance his family life with his role, but he always tried to make time in his diary, particularly to care for Sarah, who has cerebral palsy.

"Getting the family balance right in public life is extremely hard," he said. "(It) is an all-encompassing pursuit, from early morning to late at night."

After taking the job in 2011, Cr Quirk went on to win both the 2012 and 2016 Lord Mayoral elections with impressive margins.

The LNP has also maintained a strong majority in the council chamber under his leadership, currently holding 19 of the chamber's 26 seats.

He was first elected to Brisbane City Council in 1985 at the age of 27, where he represented the Rochedale Ward.

He served as finance chairman under Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson before he was appointed works chairman.

Following the 2008 Council election, he was elevated to deputy mayor and infrastructure chairman - roles he would hold for three years.

"I always loved the people engagement," he said. "I wouldn't have survived 34 years in public life unless I liked that one-on-one interaction."

QUIRK'S LEGACY

■ Opening the Legacy Way tunnel.

■ Getting Brisbane Metro off the ground - services will begin in 2023.

■ Turning Brisbane into a 'City of Light', including the LED lighting of the Story Bridge.

■ Rolling out 40 all-abilities playgrounds in Brisbane.

■ Helping secure a City Deal for southeast Queensland

■ Boosting the number of 4 and 5 star hotels in Brisbane by reducing infrastructure charges.

■ Launching Brisbane's first free inner city ferry, the City Hopper.

■ More than $4 billion of road upgrades and improvements