The 2016 AGM & Forum was held over the weekend of 20th and 21st August
Venue: Rossyln Bay Resort, Yeppoon, Qld.
Notes from the FORUM
Professor Tim Prenzler – Professor in Criminology at University of the Sunshine Coast
Bill Ludwig – Mayor of Livingstone Shire Council
Member Group Round-Up:
Groups and Individuals provided a report on their area.
Boonah and Scenic Rim: Joanna reported the removal of the previous Mayor in the last election and that the local Ratepayers group (Scenic Rim Ratepayers Association) had been instrumental in calling for his resignation due to his personal financial status. New Mayor considerably more approachable but still believes that the amalgamated model is workable.
Central Highlands Regional Council: Peter reported that the amalgamation of their shires has created an epicentre in Emerald, which previously was always the shire that had most financial difficulty. In their opinion the new shire is totally inefficient. They are concerned about the use of out-of-town cheap road building contractors who have not maintained the high standard of road building and maintenance that was set by the previous local contractors. Gravel is being carted 350 km. Peter reported recently taking the Mayor on a tour of repaired local roads to show him the concerns about the way in which the new contractors have not met the specifications detailed in the original tender documents. He reported deep concern about the safety of these roads now, especially for areas around schools. Further to this, the concern about the cost to fix the roads and who will bear this cost – the contractors or the council or the ratepayers. Peter reported that Cunnamulla has similar problems. Peter recommended that the group approach Alan Jones. David Reddiex who also works as a contractor in the Central Highlands reported that Councils seem to have forgotten that they have a duty of care to contractors as well as ratepayers. He also reported that in other council areas he has been asked for donations to councillors and these requests have been witnessed.
Eumundi, Doonan, Verrierdale and Weyba Downs President Johanne Wright sent through a report on their campaign to review the council boundaries between Noosa Shire and Sunshine Coast Councils. Despite 10 years of serious effort they have been unable to gain traction “On every occasion that we seemed to make progress we have ultimately been blocked by the unwillingness of Governments of both persuasions to allow any independent review of the merits of the case.” (Full report available by request to the Assistant Secretary).
Isis: David Horner reported that Childers had been hoping to be the 5th shire approved for a referendum on de-amalgamation by the LNP government in the 2014 process. The group supporting a return to former council boundaries has struggled since to regain momentum, as has Childers. He noted that the council has recently appointed a social worker to work especially in the area of suicide.
Lockyer Valley: Joanna read out a brief report from the Lockyer Valley group. They expressed concern about the democracy of decision making in the previous council and are awaiting time to assess the performance of the new Mayor. Expressed full support for the work of the QLGRA.
Maryborough: Cliff Thomas reported that his group were successful in getting one person of 4 elected in the council elections of March 2016. His report requesting new council boundaries for Maryborough was rejected 2 to 9. However Cliff intends to address the council again using other legislation. The Fraser Coast Council had a government advisor appointed to help it work through various issues that include whether or not to build a $55m sports stadium in Hervey Bay (this would be 100 km from some towns in the shire). The first advisor has been replaced by another after a very short period of service. Labor MP for Maryborough, who is unsupportive of the drive to change boundaries, has threatened to suspend the entire council describing it as ‘chaotic”. Cliff reported that again blue metal is being driven from distant places unnecessarily.
Monto & District: Jack Muller reported that his area has 10,000-11,000 voters and as such is a small voting area. Monto itself is going downhill due to the closure of a number of local industries. The ratepayer group does command respect from the Council. The new Mayor who defeated the incumbent has taken a trip to look for Chinese investment in collaboration with Logan councillors. Cost of travel was minimal.
Moreton Bay Ratepayers: Geoff reported that the group had created an organisation called Your Community First which had run candidates in 5 of the 12 divisions of the MB Reginal council. This highly populated council (420,000) is the same size as the ACT but has no opposition in council. All candidates came second in their division but feel they need to attract much younger people to the cause. MBRAG is working hard to rejuvenate their group.
Peak Downs: Joe Bridgeman reported the campaign to de-amalgamate Peak Downs has included writing many letters to Katter, Lachlan Miller (local LNP), petitions with 820 signatures, but the reply has been that they will have to get permission from the whole shire via a referendum. However, their group will now continue to work for this goal.
Rockhampton: Several individuals from the Rockhampton council area detailed lengthy but concerning histories of very poor treatment at the hands of this council in their opinion. Concerns included:
- The Rockhampton Council’s treatment of Vicki and Dennis Fry in their application to develop a small estate. Due to Council intransigence during the 5 year development process, and the requirement of the Frys to decontaminate this land at significant cost prior to building, the Frys now find themselves reliant on income support. Despite attempts at mediation the Frys were forced to sell the land. Eight purchasers put down contracts but the Frys consider that each purchaser was eventually deterred by Council advice. After a bank forced auction the land was sold at a very cheap price and within months a new developer had started building on the site. This saga has left Vicki and Dennis with deep emotional scars and no family home.
- John Dubois reported that he considered the Council to be lacking in expertise, poorly qualified. He reported that Rockhampton is struggling with high rates of bankruptcy and businesses closing. He felt that 2 terms as Mayor and Councillor is sufficient and would prevent corruption and complacency.
- Dennis Fry reported that John Dubois had been fighting Council actions for 28 years over his home based mechanical workshop. It has now resulted in costs being awarded against John and the spiralling bill from King & Co is now up to $200,000.
- Helen Parish reported that she has had a 15 year battle with the council over the zoning of her land as it backs onto a national park. Helen reported that submissions from her neighbours have gone missing despite the person handing them directly to Council staff. A meeting with the Mayor lasted 10 minutes before the Mayor left.
- Mick Dobson described similar problems as Helen and difficulty with city based fire brigade.
South Burnet: Colin Hewett read a report from the South Burnett council area prepared by Terry Gordon. In brief, Terry expressed concern about the how the local council is run and its’ strong connection with the local media. Terry reported that $6m was spent on miscellaneous costs by the Council. It also runs a private hospital which hence is only available to those who can afford private health insurance. Terry reported that Mayor took his wife and seven friends to Europe to visit the grave of one soldier killed in WWI. SBRAG would like to know far more about how the cost of this trip was funded.
The 2008 amalgamation reduced the number of Councillors from 37 to 7. Kingaroy Shire was the only council to support amalgamation and the only shire with significant debt. However, the Kingaroy ratepayers have benefited from amalgamation in the fact that we now have all ratepayers paying for Kingaroy’s new sewerage treatment plant ($27million) and Kingaroy’s new water treatment works ($10 million). Council’s borrowings at the time of the last council election was $42 million. In the AEC plebiscite on council amalgamations conducted before the 2008 amalgamation, South Burnett residents voted 2,981 for amalgamation and 9,498 against amalgamation. So much for democracy.
Stanthorpe: Sue reported that the group in Stanthorpe ran several candidates in the Council election with Sue spending $5000. They remain fully supportive of the QLGRA. The Southern Downs council is reportedly $28m in debt and has intentions to build a dam in a place that will require it to push water 200 metres up hill, which would not be a good idea.
St George: Ian Hannah reported that organised action by ratepayers had resulted in the change of 3 of the 6 councillors. He reported issues with a pump station that could, in his opinion, have been replaced at a much cheaper price; the river bank levy which appears to be having no maintenance to keep its integrity, and no proper consent agreement was drawn up. He reported 5 CEO’s have passed through the Council in recent years.
Website Report: David Horner also reported on the need for more photos for the QLGRA website and the need to create a Facebook page. David also suggested separate page for each group.
Additional: Joanna reported on “No Longer Mystified” – an independently run Facebook page that tracks many issues associated with local government. It is not part of the QLGRA Inc., organisation but may be of interest to some.