Bowen ratepay­ers call­ing on Min­is­ter to in­ves­ti­gate

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

THE newly formed Whit­sun­day Re­gional Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, based in Bowen, is call­ing on the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Govern­ment, David Crisa­fulli, to in­ves­ti­gate the Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil.

The as­so­ci­a­tion called a meet­ing in Bowen on Tues­day which at­tracted about 400 peo­ple.

As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Ross Newell said the meet­ing was called so that peo­ple could see a pre­sen­ta­tion about the im­pact of rate in­creases and the new levy.

Mr Newell said Cr Whit­ney had stood for coun­cil on a plat­form of trans­parency and com­mu­ni­ca­tion but that trans­parency had been a con­cern as the rate rises were higher than had been com­mu­ni­cated by coun­cil.

“Some busi­nesses were now fac­ing rate in­creases of $10,000 and $15,000,” he said.

He said his as­so­ci­a­tion had been in­un­dated with peo­ple want­ing to join the new as­so­ci­a­tion – and they had given out more than 300 ap­pli­ca­tions for mem­ber­ship at Tues­day night’s meet­ing.

Mr Newell said the as­so­ci­a­tion would now be writ­ing to the Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Govern­ment David Crisa­fulli and ask­ing him to in­ter­fere.

“We will be pro­vid­ing him with the in­for­ma­tion about the poor stan­dard of the fi­nan­cial re­port­ing of Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil – and we will be ask­ing him to step in and do a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Mr Newell said a sim­ple so­lu­tion to some of the fi­nan­cial woes of the cur­rent coun­cil would be to rene­go­ti­ate the loans.

“That would take the sting out of it for the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Coun­cil’s mayor Jennifer Whit­ney at­tended the meet­ing and ad­dressed the large crowd.

Af­ter the meet­ing, she said she would wel­come any in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Min­is­ter and that the coun­cil was not hid­ing any­thing.

She said Coun­cil had found out about the fi­nan­cial is­sues when the Queens­land Au­dit Of­fice would not sign off on the fi­nan­cial state­ments for the year end­ing June 2012.

“We have had the Queens­land Au­dit Of­fice and the Queens­land Trea­sury Cor­po­ra­tion go through our books,” she said.

Speak­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of rene­go­ti­at­ing the loans, Cr Whit­ney said it was emer­gent fund­ing that Coun­cil had re­ceived from Trea­sury and that was quite dif­fer­ent to a loan.

“We ne­go­ti­ated emer­gent fund­ing to be able to con­tinue to op­er­ate the busi­ness,” she said.

“Once we ac­cepted that, we had to de­liver a bud­get and I would have never handed down such a tough bud­get but we had no choice,” she said.

Cr Whit­ney said she be­lieved the State Govern­ment was con­fi­dent that the cur­rent coun­cil would get things back on track.

Speak­ing about the re­duc­tion of the ten per cent dis­count to five per cent, Cr Whit­ney said the Bur­dekin Re­gional Coun­cil had scrapped the dis­count all to­gether.

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