Coun­cil ac­cepts de­feat over $10.8mil­lion debt

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

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.

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