Council debt critic hits back
LAINE Harth is worried that Rockhampton Regional Council's borrowings, which are spiralling towards $200 million, are out of control.
Last week The Bulletin ran an opinion piece by Laine that aired her concerns and a response from Mayor Brad Carter, who is confident that current debt levels pose no threat to the region's future.
Here Laine responds to Cr Carter:
The Mayor's response to my letter has not alleviated my concerns at all.
The "Brisbane example" is like comparing apples to mangoes and is in an entirely different context to regional Queensland.
Brisbane in the 60s was a developing met
ropolitan city trying to accommodate rapid population growth, while Rockhampton is and always has been a regional hub with a steadily growing population.
The Mayor's statement that our debt of $195 million against an asset base of $2.278 billion is "the same as borrowing $50,000 to buy a $500,000 house" is misleading.
We have not borrowed $195 million to buy assets worth $2.278 billion.
Rockhampton Regional Council already owned the $1 billion barrage, the airport, Pilbeam Theatre, Walter Reid Centre, Heritage Village, Showgrounds and many other public spaces with a debt lower than $50 million.
Mayor Carter uses the arguably "very successful," $53 million pipeline to the coast as an example of going into debt in readiness for growth.
He says that "he cannot imagine what the rate rise would be for current generation of ratepayers if they had to fund the full cost".
My understanding is that Fitzroy River Water made a profit of $10 million in the 2010/2011 financial year and would have made more if we hadn't had the floods.
With this profit, over five years, Fitzroy River Water, would have paid for the pipeline with very little extra cost to current or future ratepayers.
The Mayor says that I don't understand that "the issue of establishing debt allows for the provision of community infrastructure today and the costs shared by our current ratepayers, as well as future ratepayers who will move to this great region as it grows".
Of course I understand the idea of sharing costs with future residents.
The Mayor's statement is merely a justification of the concept of buying on credit.
However, I am talking about an ideology, a way of thinking that brought about the statement from Rex Pilbeam on building the barrage that, "no Rockhampton resident will ever need to pay for water again".
This demonstrates a sense of duty to future generations, a responsibility to create a social and asset rich community without the burdening future residents with high rates and taxes.