Cr Glenda Mather loses her fight to be 'fair'
A LANDOWNERS bid to reduce his infrastructure charges of almost $130,000 by more than 50 per cent has been rejected by Livingstone Shire Council.
Yesterday's council meeting saw a clear division between councillors, each fighting for what they believed was fair.
The debate surrounded a request, by Dr Peter Dunbar, to negotiate infrastructure charges on a subdivision application.
Dr Dunbar's application to reconfigure his 11,288ha cattle property on Marlborough Rd into 15 lots was driven by a change in Queensland's biosecurity laws.
He told the council the subdivision was for administrative purposes related to changes to the Act and that he had no intention of on-selling the lots.
Councillor Glenda Mather insisted the infrastructure charges amounting to almost $130,000 were unfair considering the rural, isolated nature of the property, which was generally unserviced by the council.
She agreed with Dr Dunbar's request to have the charges reduced to $57,330 considering the subdivision would not be serviced by any new or additional council infrastructure, water, sewerage, parks, public transport and only two of the 15 lots have direct access to a council road.
"How many times have we given concessions to people we consider fair and reasonable?” Cr Mather said.
"I know what it's like to live on the land and what the law now says people have to do to run their businesses.
"$114,660 goes towards the road network and all but two come out on the Bruce Highway.
"We have to be fair about it...they are still operating the same way they did 12 months ago.”
Cr Tom Wyatt agreed it was "grossly unfair to charge a parks contribution”.
"We talk about Central Queensland becoming a food bowl and we keep putting brick walls up,” he said.
"This subdivision is only here because of biosecurity.”
But Cr Jan Kelly strongly disagreed that any concession should be given.
She said the levy was the same applied to infrastructure on every development regardless of where it was in the shire.
"The brick walls are not being built by our council, but by state government. We have no control,” she said.
"To say we have to be fair to this particular applicant would mean we're behaving unfairly to other applicants if we imposed charges.
"And to ratepayers by denying them infrastructure.
"We've spent six months in detailed and lengthy budget deliberations...we have downsized our organisation and budget.
"We rely on infrastructure charges to go towards the financial stability of the council...and contribute towards all infrastructure across the shire.
"There is no justification at all and we cannot in good conscious remove charges to one applicant and deny that to every other developer.”
In the absence of mayor, Bill Ludwig from this week's meeting, the vote produced a deadlock with councillors Jan Kelly, Nigel Hutton and Adam Belot voting with the motion for no change to the charges and councillors Pat Eastwood, Tom Wyatt and Glenda Mather voting against.
Deputy mayor and acting chair, Nigel Hutton said Livingstone did not charge the maximum as some councils did, adding that no water or sewerage charges had been applied.
He used his casting vote and the motion was passed.
Cr Mather however was not appeased and said talk of being fair was not reflected (in council decisions).
"Any time something new comes up we take from Peter to pay Paul,” she said.
"Next week, when we see the budget we'll see what's fair.
"I'm suggesting a particular point will test fairness.”