Plenty of Friends show sup­port for de-amal­ga­ma­tion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

UP TO 200 peo­ple turned up to the Moss­man Shire Hall on Mon­day night to learn about a blue­print from the Friends of the Dou­glas Shire about the po­ten­tial costs and struc­ture of de-amal­ga­ma­tion from Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil.

FODS in­vited politi­cians of all per­sua­sions to ad­dress the pub­lic meet­ing and pre­sented de­tailed mod­el­ling con­ducted by former Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil man­ager David Carey on how de-amal­ga­ma­tion can be achieved.

Mr Carey told the au­di­ence he used fig­ures from the fi­nal year of the Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil and lim­ited in­for­ma­tion he could ob­tain from the Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil web­site to for­mu­late his de­tailed anal­y­sis.

On these fig­ures, he es­ti­mated the ini­tial cost of dea­mal­ga­ma­tion at $3 mil­lion.

He cal­cu­lated ratepay­ers would not be bur­dened with any sig­nif­i­cant in­crease as a re­sult of de-amal­ga­ma­tion based on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence gen­eral rates within Divi­sion 10 of Cairns Re­gional Coun­cil have in­creased by 20 per cent over the former DSC rates in 2008/09.

Mr Carey’s mod­el­ling was based on the as­sump­tion there would be no re­duc­tion in to­tal rates rev­enue ap­plied by a new Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil and loans ex­ist­ing with the former DSC have been fully re­paid since amal- gama­tion.

“The model clearly demon­strates there are more than ad­e­quate funds set aside each year for fu­ture as­sets re­newal and re­place­ment as things fall apart,” Mr Carey said.

“The model demon­strates the gen­eral fund will have $300,000 avail­able af­ter meet­ing de­pre­ci­a­tion com­mit­ments in 2012/13, ris­ing to al­most $1 mil­lion in 2016/17.

“The cleans­ing, water and sew­er­age funds gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant sur­pluses which in­di­cates fu­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing will be read­ily achiev­able.”

Mr Carey warned risks which could af­fect his mod­el­ling in­cluded a change to oper­a­tional pro­ce­dures that would com­mit the new coun­cil to sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased costs, a sig­nif­i­cant rise in wages and con­di­tions from the former Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil and the costs to es­tab­lish a new coun­cil are not specif­i­cally known and could ex­ceed es­ti­mates.

Divi­sion 10 coun­cil­lor Ju­lia Leu told the au­di­ence that be­ing one coun­cil­lor out of 11 could be dif­fi­cult.

“We have lost our iden­tity to a large de­gree,” she said.

“But if we do get the op­por­tu­nity to once again to be­come the Dou­glas Shire we all must be to­tally in­formed of all the pos­si­ble ’fors’ and ’again­sts’ be­cause the de­ci­sion is to­tally up to us and there is no go­ing back once it’s made.”

OP­PO­SI­TION lo­cal govern­ment spokesman David Gib­son told Mon­day night’s au­di­ence the LNP would “get the ball rolling” for de-amal­ga­ma­tion of the former Dou­glas Shire within 100 days if it won next year’s state elec­tion.

“Be­fore the process can be­gin, the Bound­ary Com­mis­sioner will have to re­draw the bound­aries of the pro­posed new shire and the Queens­land Trea­sury Cor­po­ra­tion will have to scru­ti­nise the vi­a­bil­ity of the model and see if it is sus­tain­able,” he said.

“If it does prove to be a vi­able op­tion, then the fi­nal step, be­fore it can pro­ceed, is to put the plan to a ref­er­en­dum or a vote to see if the ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity still wants the de-amal­ga­ma­tion to go ahead and this will take at least two years.”

The Aus­tralian Party’s can­di­date for Cook Lach­lan Ben­sted opened his speech by sim­ply say­ing: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

He then went on to say that within 60 to 90 days, if they were elected to form Govern­ment, the peo­ple could have their former shire back if they voted for it with the same bound­aries that ex­isted be­fore.

But he pre­sented no model or costs on how this would be done.

Mem­ber for Cook Ja­son O’brien, of the La­bor party, did not at­tend Mon­day night’s meet­ing but re­mains com­mit­ted to amal­ga­ma­tion.

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