Council tightens its belt

By DARRYN NUFER

ALL of Rockhampton's council operations are being scrutinised in an effort to cut more than $1 million a year from the city's recurrent budget.

The value of everything from the Rockhampton Heritage Village to the art gallery and the two city gardens is being investigated as the council tries to minimise rate increases and save ratepayers money.

Cr John Broad said it had become painfully obvious that Rockhampton City Council's rather extravagant past had caught up with it.

"We simply can't afford to go on spending a total of $3.7 million a year on our non-core activities (see table).

"Perhaps we have been trying too hard to emulate the attractions of a capital city when we are not one.''

The non-core activities are part of the city's identity, but most create little or no direct return in revenue for the council.

Cr Broad said work had already started on creating a revenue stream at the city's zoo.

The facility's perimeter is to be fenced and a proposed $2 cover charge introduced.

Rockhampton families could be eligible for discounts. The council is also working on a strategy to ensure the showgrounds operate at a profit.

But Cr Broad is not convinced user-pays is the solution to all of the current expenditure problems.

"We may be able to look at other ways,'' he said.

"There certainly has been no mention of shutting down any of the city's valuable attractions.''

Capricorn Tourism marketing communications manager Kerry Johnston said the free or "gold coin'' attractions were vitally important to Rockhampton.

"To lose them would be detrimental,'' she said.

"Places like the zoo are very popular with international visitors and backpackers.

"A lot of tourists come in here (Capricorn Tourism) on a Sunday looking for things to do.

"The free attractions are an easy way to spend a Sunday when most of the paid attractions are closed.''

The council hands down its 2005/06 budget today.

Cr Broad said over the next 18 months, further spending restraint needed to be shown in all areas of the council's operations.



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