Mayoral candidate says big spending not backed by planning

MAYORAL candidate Michael McMillan has voiced concerns over a number of community infrastructure projects proposed by Rockhampton Regional Council, including the riverbank design.

Mr McMillan said key infrastructure and planning activities would cost millions, but appear to have insufficient due diligence, business cases or public consultation processes attached.

He also said he was approached daily by ratepayers over what he saw as council's "erratic approach to city development".

It is also understood that council is in very early negotiations to buy a building in Quay St, with the intention of turning it into an arts and cultural centre.

The Morning Bulletin has decided not to name the building to avoid jeopardising a potential deal.

But Mr McMillan said it would be a huge undertaking, likely to run up a substantial bill for refurbishments and ongoing costs.

"The absence of clearly established long-term infrastructure and strategic plans for council and appropriate public consultation processes has divided the community and created a push back from ratepayers," he said.

"(They are) confused by inconsistency and ad hoc proposals from flood levees one month to a redevelopment of Mount Archer the next, conference centre proposals and now a riverbank project that only until recently council had advised was not a community priority."

But Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said the riverbank development was currently out for public consultation, and had received very strong support.

"This project will be built using the $15 million in State Government funding secured by Bill Byrne and $5 million of council money," she said.

"I respect that a future council may well have a different point of view on many issues, but it is not in our region's interest for council to stop work six months prior to an election."

Mr McMillan said he was currently in the process of releasing a series of his own council policies.

While he said he appreciated council must take the lead in initiating municipal development activity, the community must be appropriately consulted and given a chance to influence funding priorities.

"In the meantime all I can do is appeal to the current council not to mortgage our region's future for the sake of expedient vote winning… with projects that sound good but lack the proper planning and funding source," he said.

"They could well become a long-term maintenance and recurrent cost nightmare to future councils and our residents."

But Cr Strelow said council's debt was reducing, and they were in surplus.

The next election is in May 2016, and before each election there is a caretaker period when council is restricted in making commitments.

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