‘DIF­FI­CULT’ BUD­GET AP­PROVED

Air­port the big ticket in new bud­get

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Dane Lilling­stone dane.lilling­stone@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

THERE is no res­i­den­tial rates in­crease in the Whit­sun­day re­gion for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, but the coun­cil’s com­mit­ment to up­grad­ing its air­port will add $30 mil­lion to its debt.

The Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil Bud­get 2017/18 un­veiled on Fri­day in­cluded $32 mil­lion for Bowen, in­cor­po­rat­ing money for a new sew­er­age treat­ment plant, $2.5 mil­lion to help fix up Shute Har­bour and more than $1.3 mil­lion for a Proser­pine wa­ter park.

Can­non­vale Beach has been al­lo­cated $200,000 to­wards its up­grade which will also in­volve the re-in­tro­duc­tion of a stinger net.

As the coun­cil unan­i­mously ap­proved the bud­get, Mayor An­drew Will­cox de­clared it a “dif­fi­cult” one in the wake of ex-Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Deb­bie.

“Cir­cum­stances have made it es­sen­tial that this bud­get will be a con­ser­va­tive one,” he said at the Bowen coun­cil cham­bers on Fri­day.

The Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port was the big-ticket item in the bud­get that fea­tured a to­tal of

$82.6 mil­lion in cap­i­tal works projects.

The $39.8 ter­mi­nal and run­way up­grade ac­counts for al­most half of the cap­i­tal works bud­get.

Coun­cil is re­ly­ing on se­cur­ing a $25 mil­lion low­in­ter­est loan from the Queens­land Trea­sury Cor­po­ra­tion, and has $15 mil­lion from a re­cent State Gov­ern­ment grant.

Cr Will­cox said no money had been al­lo­cated to the Air­lie Beach La­goon as its re­pair bill of al­most $1 mil­lion had been taken from the 2016/17 bud­get.

Due to the im­pend­ing air­port loan, the coun­cil’s debt will rise sig­nif­i­cantly – from just over $50 mil­lion to more than $80 mil­lion in 2017/18 be­fore ris­ing again in 2018/19.

Cr Will­cox said the air­port would reap long-term ben­e­fits, bring­ing an ex­tra 240,000 pas­sen­gers to the Whit­sun­days last year.

“We have to bor­row to get our air­port up­graded,” Cr Will­cox said.

There will be a 0% in­crease in the to­tal rate bur­den in the res­i­den­tial rat­ing cat­e­gories.

There will, how­ever, be a 2% in­crease in rates other than res­i­den­tial.

A $70 charge will be added to rates to ac­com­mo­date the his­toric in­tro­duc­tion of kerb­side re­cy­cling.

The bud­get also brings a re­duc­tion in wa­ter util­i­ties charges for small busi­nesses.

PHOTO: DANE LILLING­STONE

TAK­ING FLIGHT: Queens­land Trea­surer Cur­tis Pitt and Whit­sun­day Mayor An­drew Will­cox at the re­cent $15 mil­lion fund­ing an­nounce­ment at the Whit­sun­day Coast Air­port.

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