Plenty of Friends show support for de-amalgamation
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.