Council accepts defeat over $10.8million debt
DESPITE previously stated intentions to fight a further $10.8million flood damage works debt, Whitsunday Regional Council is now preparing to pay.
This latest debt was incurred as a result of ineligible and out-of-scope works from the 2009 National Disaster Relief Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) program.
At the Council meeting in Bowen on February 26, mayor Jennifer Whitney spoke about a whistle-blowing trip to Townsville in 2009, during which she and Cr Jan Clifford raised concerns about the spend with the government of the time.
As a result, Cr Whitney said she intended to fight this debt “to the bone”, but by last week, she appeared to have given in.
“We haven’t received the bill to pay [it] yet [but] Council will be sitting down and working out in conjunction with QTC (Queensland Treasury Corporation), how we structure and try and manage paying that debt, because the government’s going to want it in a very short time frame,” she said last week.
While Cr Whitney would not say what the outcome would be for ratepayers, she did say “we’ve already gone through some scenarios that we’ll have to look at doing”.
Cr Whitney said the main issue now would be asking for as much time to pay as possible.
“We don’t want to pay it but the message coming through loud and clear is ‘government will get it from you’,” she said.
“We can fight until the cows come home... but what we have to do now is forecast and work out how we can fit that into our budget process.”
Cr Whitney said Council was looking at all options including increased borrowings, service reductions and “increases somewhere”.
“We don’t want to keep having our hand in our pockets so we’ve got to come up with innovative ways and measures to deal with this crisis,” she said.