Gladstone council to sell 219 properties
GLADSTONE Regional Council has voted to sell 219 properties to recoup part of its rates arrears totalling $27.1 million.
Under Local Government Regulation 2012, councils have the legal power to sell properties with rates arrears of more than three years.
At the December 1 meeting, councillors voted on whether to adopt council staff recommendations to sell the 219 properties, which owed $3,236,419.04 in outstanding rates.
As ratepayers have 12 months to pay their rates, the rates of the 219 properties are overdue by four years or more.
At a November meeting it was revealed council was owed a total of $27.1 million in outstanding rates.
Documents revealed in comparison with other Queensland councils, Gladstone’s outstanding rates total of 8.1 percent, was just above the 7.5 per cent average, and well less than Gold Coast (20 per cent), Fraser Coast (15.8 per cent) and Logan (15 per cent).
The item was then moved into confidential discussions, as there were issues with some properties and potential legal matters identified.
The Observer does not currently have the confidential list of 219 properties.
When discussions returned to the public meeting, Governance, Finance and Risk general manager Mark Holmes said the report to councillors outlined both the number of properties involved, plus what other councils had done in similar situations.
“Two of those councils have commenced sale for arrears out of the five councils we surveyed, one will be commencing on 1 January, and two have postponed.”
Noting that Mackay, Rockhampton and Toowoomba council’s had suspended sale for arrears proceedings, Cr Kahn Goodluck said giving the property owners another six months “seems like a reasonable course of action at the moment”.
Cr Chris Trevor said the council stood to lose $3 million in rates and every year for the past 11 years, the sale for arrears had proceeded.
“If you don’t pay your rates we can’t deliver the services that the greater majority of our population expect us to deliver,” he said.
“As hard as it is, my view is these people must be brought to account, as these arrears were accrued well prior to COVID.
“What we will find, and as history has shown, over 90 per cent of rate arrears are paid, simply because mortgagees are reluctant to allow the properties to be sold.”
Council documents show over the past 11 years, 714 properties have been subject to sale action for arrears, but only 12 proceeded to auction.
Council staff said this was the “last resort” and they would work with people owing outstanding rates so they didn’t get to this point.
Cr Goodluck said every year since he had been on council he had supported the sale for arrears.
“But this is not an ordinary year, this is the year of 2020, which has been a massive year and huge economic impacts to certain people,” he said.
“I don’t see it as a major issue to just postpone this...It’s not a huge urgent issue, over another six months we can try and work with these people,” he said.
“Hopefully, over that time frame, we might see some of these people in a better position.”
Cr Daryl Branthwaite moved the motion to support the officers recommendation, which was seconded by Cr Trevor.
All councillors except Cr Goodluck voted to support the motion.