RATES SHOCK: ‘ IS THAT LEGAL?’
Farmers furious after being hit by massive hike:
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.”
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.