Rocky’s council candidates share plans to keep rates low
THERE'S only seven days remaining in the 2020 local government campaign and we've quizzed the contenders for the roles of mayor and councillors in Rockhampton Regional Council on the following question: "Are rates too high and do you have a plan to keep them lower?"
Mayoral candidate: Chris Hooper
Rates are said to go up with the C.P.I. Rates are also governed on the expenditure of the council budget.
The council has spent heaps of money on projects like the levee bank (39 million in the 2019-2020 budget which i have a copy of) which i believe should be scrapped.
So to cover the overspend the bean counters put the rates up.
There is no one independent to keep a eye on all this i believe my management board (citizens assembly) can keep a eye on all this to stop stinging the rate payer, especially the pensioners.
Mayoral candidate: Margaret Strelow
Our rates are actually below those of comparable councils. And we have been delivering good financial management.
As I speak our debt sits at just under $110 million down from $165 million at deamalgamation. Our cash in bank is over $70 million.
No one likes to pay rates and I know that people are doing it tough so managing your money carefully is important to me. We have delivered seven consecutive budgets in surplus, we are paying down debt and we are investing the right amount to renew our assets.
Division 1: Sherrie Ashton
I'd love to tell you the rates will come down. In reality, rates won't come down. What we can do is find inefficiencies and use that money better. For rates to decrease we have to increase the rate base. More people living in our region the easier it is push down on rates or more people to share the cost of running our amazing region.
Division 1: Shane Latcham
Every property owner and business owner would love to pay lower rates in Rockhampton.
My family owns a residential property and a sports complex business, both in Division One.
Commercial businesses pay nearly twice as much for rates, water, waste and sewerage charges. Businesses even pay per toilet when households with two or three toilets get charged for one toilet.
Council needs to re-evaluate excessive commercial rates and operational costs to encourage business to invest in Rockhampton.
Households are struggling with living expenses and need to be offered relief by stop increasing the annual charge even when property valuations have decreased.
Division 1: Vincent Robertson
Rockhampton does have high rates. As I am not yet an elected Councillor, I am not privileged to the expenditures on services provided by the council.
With that in mind, I am not saying that there may not be achievable savings for ratepayers. I am saying that it is a topic that warrants exploration, with hopefully, a successful outcome for ratepayers.
I am certainly in favour of looking into the areas where savings can be passed on.
Division 2: Neil Fisher
It is important for council not to let its expenditure exceed its income.
Added is investment in infrastructure that can reduce council's long term operational cost.
A solar farm at the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant that has the potential to provide enough power to run the Glenmore WTP and Glenmore Pump Stations for much of the year. The generation of solar power at the Glenmore WTP is expected to cut FRW's $3 million electricity bill significantly.
The Lakes Creek Landfill is now capturing landfill gases that will in the near future be combusted in a generator to produce power.
Division 2: Gavin Shuker
Any rise in rates is always going to have a lot of public interest as it affects everyone. Given the state of the economy with the coronavirus affecting a lot of businesses and then this causing many employment issues it is something the council has to be aware of and keep these rises to CPI if possible. Budgeting well and ensuring due diligence on projects and works as best as possible to ensure there are no extra costs to the budget is important as ultimately this falls on the community as a whole.
Division 3: Tony Williams
The current global economic uncertainty will impact our community in the coming months in unprecedented ways. In order to minimise the flow on effects to ratepayers while delivering the same, essential services will require perseverance and a calm approach.
With the announcement of Federal and State Government stimulus packages we may be able to fast track the delivery of the Fitzroy River Water Solar Farm Project. With the potential to save $700,000 per annum or a one per cent rate reduction.
Division 4: Ellen Smith
RRC general rates are one of the cheapest in CQ. In spite of this, councillors have endeavoured to keep rate rises to a minimum, and it will be my intention to follow this pattern. It's all about what projects need to happen for the region to grow and prosper. Councillors always want to see their divisional projects get into the budget, but often at times that is not possible.
Other times, we put our pet projects on hold in favour of infrastructure that will benefit the whole region. Last financial year, we froze the rural rate in recognition of the continuing drought.
Division 5: Peter Anderson
Yes, they are too high. We do need to be financially responsible. What we need to do is encourage new businesses to our region and encourage our existing businesses to grow.
That will expand the rate base, irrigation schemes will also bring in extra income. The pensioners are struggling, so a discount there would be good. If council could reduce costs, for example Local Laws from my own experience and of other businesses being investigated for several years and then being told your compliant is costing business in some cases up to $100,000.
Division 5: Cherie Rutherford
Setting rates is always a difficult balancing act. Of course we would all like to pay less but our rates are used to fund, amongst other things, the replacement of aging infrastructure; beautification an maintenance of our region and building a strong and resilient community for the future. The question I always ask myself during this debate is whether we are providing value for money and I believe we are.
Division 6: Drew Wickerson
The average rates in the Rockhampton region are less than or equivalent to many other similar regions. While no one likes getting their rates notice, me included, we all rightfully expect that our region will continue to prosper and grow through new development, well maintained and new infrastructure, and providing a highly livable, vibrant and safe community. I believe it is very important that as elected representatives, we continue to make sure that the community is getting the best value for money with the cost of projects, goods and services and that, more than ever, we continue to strongly support local businesses.
Division 7: Noeleen Horan
As a rate payer myself I understand the financial stress this cost places on families, so I have no doubt we would all like to see rates "lower". It is unrealistic to expect rates to decrease however I do see the importance of aligning any increases with the CPI.
Rates are the main source of income for council and this income needs to be spent as efficiently as possible. If elected as councillor I would encourage sensible spending, raise awareness as to how and where rates are spent and engage with rate payers regarding what services they are satisfied with.
Division 7: Donna Kirkland
Many ratepayers have asked me "why do my rates go up when my land value has gone down?". They also ask "why do my rates go up more than CPI?: Ratepayers deserve to understand.
We are far from out of the woods, as locals work their way through what has been an extended period of economic duress. Now with the added ripple effects of COVID-19, as a voice for the people, I will actively pursue avenues of relief from further burdens for ratepayers - businesses and residential alike.
Where to vote for pre-polling:
• Gracemere Community Centre, 6‐9 Barry Street, Gracemere
• James Lawrence Pavilion, Rockhampton Showgrounds, New
Exhibition Rd, Wandal
• The Green Shed, 36 Thompson Avenue, Mount Morgan
• Yeppoon Town Hall, 25 Normanby St, Yeppoon
2020 COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Mayor: Margaret Strelow and Chris Hooper
• Division 1: Shane Latcham, Vince Robertson and Sherrie Ashton
• Division 2: Neil Fisher and Gavin Shuker
• Division 3: Tony Williams
• Division 4: Ellen Smith
• Division 5: Cherie Rutherford and Peter Anderson
• Division 6: Drew Wickerson
• Division 7: Noeleen Horan and Donna Kirkland
Livingstone Shire candidates:
Mayor: Bill Ludwig, Andy Ireland and Lynelle Burns
Councillors: Andrea Friend, Leah Grice, Nigel Hutton, Adam Belot, Pat Eastwood, Rhodes Watson, Glenda Mather, Leo Honek, Tanya Lynch, Keith Sully, Scott Tarratt, Stephen Bird, Athol Keanalley, Mathew Peach, Mike Decman
Early voting opens on March 16, closes at 6pm on March 27
Postal vote ballot papers close on April 7 at 5pm
Election day: Saturday, March 28, 8am to 6pm
What is the key issue for Rockhampton Regional Council candidates to address in the local government election?
This poll ended on 27 March 2020.
Keeping rate rises at or below CPI
Supporting local businesses to grow, create and protect jobs
Attracting new business/industry to the area
Delivering new infrastructure projects and facilities
Reviving the CBD
Reducing Council debt
Improving the region’s roads, intersections, footpaths
Delivering the South Rockhampton flood levee
Stopping the South Rockhampton flood levee
Creating new tourism opportunities
Reducing water charges
Raising the barrage to increase water security
Upgrading Rockhampton Airport to international flights
Improving the region’s waste collection and management
Fixing or modifying Council’s local laws
Developing a youth engagement strategy to combat juvenile crime
Improving local parks, playgrounds and sporting fields
Addressing the region’s pests including deer and weeds
Doing more to reduce crime
Shifting the rail line out of town
Supporting the construction of a major sports stadium
Doing more to help the less fortunate, disengaged and homeless
Greater support for sporting and community organisations
Better communication and consultation between Council and the community
Improving drainage and flood mitigation
Extending Rockhampton’s boundaries to take in fringe Livingstone suburbs of Glenlee, Rockyview and Glendale
Upgrading the Mt Archer National Park to allow more adventure sports /activities
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.