Livingstone Shire Council mayor Bill Ludwig.
Livingstone Shire Council mayor Bill Ludwig.

‘Butt out’: Mayors clash over de-amalgamation debts

ROCKHAMPTON Region Mayor Margaret Strelow and her Livingstone counterpart Bill Ludwig refuse to bury the hatchet on de-amalgamation debt.

As the debate flared up again this week, Cr Ludwig even went as far as to say: “Margaret Strelow should really just butt out and focus on her own shire”.

Last week Cr Ludwig, while speaking about his council’s quarterly budget review (Q2), told his fellow councillors that post de-amalgamation “we knew that we had a stiff job in front of us in 2014 when we were shovelled across $81.2 million in total liability”.

He added: “We also know that when we interrogated that debt, there was probably about $25m to $30m that should not have come to Livingstone Shire but we had to suck that up”.

After these comments were reported, Cr Strelow hit back in what seems like a subject the two leaders will never see eye-to-eye on.

“Just to restate, the new Livingstone Shire received cash and debt roughly in line with pre-de-amalgamation QTC estimates - before all the debate and the referendum,” Cr Strelow said.

“These were the figures used by the proponents of de-amalgamation to prepare their case.

“There were no surprises.”

Cr Strelow said the debt that Livingstone Shire Council took with it at deamalgamation was made up of debt it had before amalgamation, and debt that was raised to pay for works done in the Livingstone Shire area.

“It includes the pipeline (which still hadn’t been paid for prior to amalgamation) and sports facilities and roads etc,” she said.

“An independent observer acted for Livingstone to ensure all the processes were fair and Treasury audited the process.

“I should also note that councils typically don’t draw down any new debt required until the fourth quarter of a budget cycle so a Q2 report is not telling the full story.

“The Auditor General will be handing down his report to Parliament about Local ­Government later this month.”

Cr Ludwig initially said he did not want to be drawn into responding to Cr Strelow’s comments as it was “a ­discussion we need to have with the boundary commissioner”.

But yesterday he decided to elaborate.

“The statements I correctly made were in relation to the Q2 budget review highlights just how well LSC has managed and not increased debt while delivering over $300 million in transformational capital works,” Cr Ludwig said.

“This has occurred despite what we have previously documented was an unfair proportional distribution of Rockhampton Regional Council massive debt onto Livingstone Ratepayers.

“The Q2 is showing that we’re ahead of budget - we’re actually going to come in with reducing debt even further than we had projected.

“By the time we get to the fourth quarter, we’re likely to probably have up to a $1 million less debt than we ­projected and there are no new borrowings at all until 2024.

“Matters relating to any possible future review and ­adjustment of debt inherited by LSC will be formally ­presented in detail and ­published when the Boundary Commissioner undertakes the scheduled a review of ­Livingstone and ­Rockhampton boundaries which is likely to occur sometime over the next two years.

“So Margaret Strelow should really just butt out at this point in time and focus on running her own finances.”

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