RATES SHOCK: ‘ IS THAT LE­GAL?’

Farm­ers fu­ri­ous af­ter be­ing hit by mas­sive hike:

South Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Michael Nolan michael. nolan @ south­bur­nett­times. com. au

TEN­SIONS are run­ning high in the ru­ral sec­tor with some farm­ers fac­ing a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in their rates bill.

Farm­ers in the north of the dis­trict called a pub­lic meet­ing to hear why the South Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil was jack­ing up their rates and what they planned to do with the money.

The coun­cil in­fra­struc­ture de­part­ment laid out a com­pre­hen­sive plan for road works that seemed to cool the tem­pers in the room but the farm­ers were not happy.

Ag­force is get­ting le­gal ad­vice to see if farm­ers can be spared part of the in­crease and a num­ber of land­hold­ers say the spike goes against State Gov­ern­ment guide­lines.

THE South Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil laid out its plans for the ru­ral road net­work at a fiery meet­ing in Durong Com­mu­nity Hall on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Farm­ers from across the dis­trict called for the meet­ing af­ter the coun­cil rolled the Road Levy into gen­eral rates and weighted it so large prop­erty own­ers would pay the bulk of out­stand­ing rev­enue.

Some farm­ers are fac­ing rates in­creases in ex­cess of 15 per cent.

The coun­cil’s gen­eral manager of in­fra­struc­ture, Aaron Mee­han, said there was a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money needed to re­store our ru­ral road net­work.

“The back­log on the un­sealed net­work is about $ 13 mil­lion, I think that’s a con­ser­va­tive num­ber,” Mr Mee­han said.

He added that over 20- 25 years there had been a short­fall in fund­ing for gravel re- sheet­ing and un­sealed road re­newals.

“While those ( roads) might be graded and main­tained, they might not have been re­placed,” he said.

Mr Mee­han said older roads got to a stage where they could be dam­aged very quickly.

“That’s where we are at the mo­ment in the South Bur­nett,” he said.

Over time, rain, wind and traf­fic re­move gravel from the roads and grader crews smooth­ing out roads can start to hit solid road base.

Any at­tempt to smooth the road base can cause se­ri­ous dam­age.

“If you look at the un­sealed net­work, it’s about 16,000km, about 1200km of that is gravel road, we know over 300km of that is re­quir­ing re- sheet­ing,” Mr Mee­han said.

To fix the back­log, the coun­cil will fo­cus on re- sheet­ing and form­ing up the gravel net­work at the ex­pense of build­ing new roads or widen­ing others.

Mr Mee­han reck­ons it will be eas­ier and cheaper in the long term to run a dry grade over the newly re- sheeted roads.

“We’re rein­tro­duc­ing new grad­ing struc­tures and a main­te­nance strat­egy with a tiered ap­proach of low, medium and high or­der roads,” he said.

“In con­junc­tion with our re- sheet pro­gram, the high or­der roads would be wet graded an­nu­ally at least, ev­ery other road would be pa­trol or dry graded so we main­tain the drainage and clear the veg­e­ta­tion on those roads.

“With putting the pa­trol grad­ing struc­ture back in place, we’ll be able to send the trucks to patch and grade while we are there.”

PHOTO: MICHAEL NOLAN

MOV­ING FOR­WARD: The South Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil's gen­eral man­anger of in­fra­struc­ture, Aaron Mee­han and roads port­fo­lio holder Coun­cil­lor Gavin Jones ad­dress farm­ers at a town hall meet­ing in Durong.

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