Heated discussions as Council talks about new rates and charges
WHITSUNDAY Regional Council has started round-table talks with community stakeholders and ratepayers about the effects of its 2013/14 budget.
Just one hour was allocated for a preliminary meeting in Bowen last week attended by representatives from the region’s chambers of commerce, and tourism and economic organisations.
The meeting was also attended by executives of the newly formed Whitsunday Regional Ratepayers Association (WRRA).
With such a short time to discuss major issues including the new twopart water tariff, major projects levy and Council’s debt, many at the table questioned what Mayor Jennifer Whitney hoped to achieve.
“This is the start of more than likely more meetings – it’s not going to solve everyone’s issues here today,” Cr Whitney said.
The meeting kicked off with a water presentation by Bowen-based ratepayer Chris Monsour, which was followed by an overview of the new two-part tariff by Council’s director of corporate services Graham Jarvis.
Council’s CEO Scott Waters then delivered an overview of the “one region” 2013/14 budget.
“We are in extraordinary circumstances,” Mr Waters said, before going into further detail about Council’s multi-million dollar unfunded debt through the flood damage program and over-ambitious commitment to major projects in an unrealistically short time-frame.
Mr Waters gave assurances that Council had implemented austerity measures and put corrective actions in place “across the board” to bring the region back on track as quickly as possible.
However, when the question-andanswer session began, it was clear that for many around the table this was not enough.
Bowen Collinsville Enterprise treasurer Dave Nebaur was one of several people who begged Council to identify assets for sale and renegotiate the terms of its loan with the Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC).
Mr Nebaur said the small business community in the Whitsundays was “going out backwards” and that the 2013/14 budget was “the straw that will break the camel’s back”.
He also begged Council to engage more with the brain power in the room.
As the Whitsunday Times went to press yesterday a second meeting was underway in Bowen after Cr Whitney said she took these comments on board and agreed to further consultation.
She did however say that at this stage the budget would not change.
CONTROVERSIAL: There were heated discussions last week as councillors and the community discussed the new rates and charges.
UNDER THE PUMP: Whitsunday Regional Council CEO Scott Waters giving an overview of the budget.