University Professor hits back at criticism of his study
CQUNIVERSITY economics professor John Rolfe yesterday hit back at critics who have attacked his analysis of the potential costs of a de-amalgamation.
Prof Rolfe yesterday issued a statement saying he welcomed the attention his report had received, but disagreed with the criticisms.
"In a press release issued last Friday, some supporters of the Livingstone de-amalgamation proposal criticised the report that I prepared for Capricorn Enterprise," Prof Rolfe said.
He countered the key claims with:
Claim 1: "Rockhampton and the Capricorn Coast are distinctively different communities". It is to be expected that people identify with their local community and emphasise its unique character. However, in a local government context the key issue is whether there are large enough differences between communities to require a different or specialised mix of services, given that the key communities are located so close together. I tested this claim carefully with an analysis of the 2011 Census data for the region. I found that the population in the proposed Livingstone area has much the same characteristics as the population in the remainder of Rockhampton.
Claim 2: "A de-amalgamated Livingstone would … continue to enjoy a strong economic base'. I show in my report that the economic base of the proposed Livingstone area is quite small, and that the economy in the remainder of the Rockhampton region is about six and a half times larger. It is clear that there is substantial affluence in the Capricorn Coast region, but this is largely because of people living on the coast and working in and drawing incomes from Rockhampton or other areas. While I agree that the Capricorn Coast region has a bright future, it is tied to the economy in the region.
Claim 3: "(There are) competing needs of Rockhampton City versus the needs of the growing coastal urban centres and rural areas". In terms of economic growth prospects, the Livingstone and Rockhampton areas face much the same challenges and markets. I show in my report that one key challenge is to attract new population. While the Capricorn Coast has a number of lifestyle and amenity advantages, Rockhampton has the services and many of the jobs.
Claim 4: "… a specific focus on tourism, light industry, mining and agricultural development is essential if economic development opportunities for the (Capricorn Coast) region are to be optimised". For key industries it is the regional base that is important. Tourism is a core industry for the Capricorn Coast, but all access is through Rockhampton, many attractions are in the regional area, and many visitors come for the regional benefits rather than only those at the Capricorn Coast. It is the same for light industry, agricultural and mining industries. Claim 5: "There is no evidence of improvements in (the) key indicators". Amalgamation, like de-amalgamation, involves many different costs. Many of the costs involved in amalgamating the four previous councils, including maintaining the employee base, bringing salaries into line, and getting a consistent set of processes and operations, have been reflected in the costs to ratepayers over the past five years.
De-amalgamation would generate a new set of these costs to Livingstone residents - this is the basis for the Queensland Treasury predictions that there would be increases to Livingstone ratepayers by $429 in the first year, and then $194 each year after that, increasing with inflation.
Claim 6: "The most obvious omission … is any concern for the democratic rights of citizens to have a meaningful say in how they are governed …". My report focused solely on the economic consequences of de-amalgamation.