Mayor’s Message 4.2

23 April 2019

The Federal Election is now in full swing. Federal Budgets are one measure of how well the Government is looking after our regions. 

Although there were modest announcements across the entirety for Australian Local Governments, the question is how will this translate to the South Burnett?

The Federal Budget included an increase in next year’s base funding for the Roads to Recovery program from $400M per annum to $500M per annum from 2019-20. Council received $1,454,458 this financial year from Roads to Recovery. In addition, Roads Safety Federal Blackspots and Bridges Renewal programs achieve additional injections of funds. This additional infrastructure funding is essential and although well short of what is needed, it is always welcomed.

Additionally, there is an allocation of $6M in funding for the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy to assist councils by funding engineering assessments for Local Government roads. Local Government is responsible for 75% of our road network, more than 650,000 kms in length. We just cannot maintain this large asset with only 3.6% of the nation’s tax revenue.

The big disappointment with the budget is its failure to address this fundamental mismatch of revenue and responsibility.

The Federal Coalition Government did not respond to the Australian Local Government of Australia’s call to restore FAGs (Federal Assistance Grants) to 1% of national tax revenue given that it has now fallen to just 0.55%. Regrettably, neither has the Labor Opposition given support for this increased funding. The restoration of this funding would make a huge difference to the South Burnett. Nevertheless, we intend to continue to support our National and State peak bodies to continue our discussions with the Government and the Opposition regarding restoring a fairer share of the taxation revenue for all local communities in Australia.

It is a matter that we continue to lobby both sides of politics. I would encourage everybody to speak to their local candidates about this matter. It is critically important to help carry the huge financial load that Local Government is expected to deliver. The alternative is that pressure will continue on rate increases.

Mayor’s Message 4

5 April 2019

New Valuations for the South Burnett have been advised by the Valuer General’s Department and will come into effect 30 June 2019

The total unimproved value of all valuations is $1,687,340,897.  Particulars of the new valuations of all lands within the South Burnett area have now been forwarded to each landowner by the Department. 

The raw data is that 4,573 valuations increased, 10,574 decreased and 2,463 valuations remained the same.  The valuation roll will be available for inspection by any person without payment of a fee during normal office hours at the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy, J. Bjelke-Petersen Research Facility until 4 June 2019.

The valuation display listings can also be accessed on the Department’s website http://www.dnrme.qld.gov.au during the same period.  Land owners who do not agree with their valuation and who can provide sufficient information to demonstrate that their valuation is incorrect, can lodge an objection with the Valuer General by
7 May 2019. 

These new valuations present challenges for South Burnett Regional Council in that there are some 40 different rating categories covering 17,610 rateable properties.  The challenge occurs where there are both increases and decreases in the same rating category. 

Council has available ‘smoothing tools’ that have been used in previous years to assist in minimising the impact. Valuations are averaged over a three year financial year period to lessen the impact for property owners with large valuation increases. 

Additionally, a 30% cap has also been in use so that in the case of large increases no one’s rates will increase by more than 30%.  The methodology to be used for the next budget year 2019/2020 is still being determined.  Council has indicated that the overall rate increase is hoped to be in the order of CPI.  However, it may not roll out equitably due to the valuation fluctuations within particular rating categories.  

My comments in this column are designed to alert ratepayers of this fact.  

Mayor’s Message 3.2

19 March 2019

There’s much unhappiness in the tent of many Councils in Queensland about the plans to force major changes to the way Queenslanders elect their local councils.

One of the most significant proposals is that compulsory preferential voting would apply to all Councils in Queensland. This change would make voting significantly more complex and that makes it easier to make mistakes. One of the other proposals is the notion of introducing proportional representation in elections for undivided councils (South Burnett Regional Council (SBRC) is a divided Council). This would benefit larger political parties and drown out local voices. The other point of discord is that the Government are also proposing to use Queenslanders rate payments to pay candidates even if they’re not elected. That means $1.57 per vote (for SBRC it equates to $70,402) money that’s not being spent on infrastructure or services. These changes are just some of the raft of changes proposed by the State Government in a discussion paper which will be debated by the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) at a special General Meeting being held in Brisbane on Tuesday 2 April 2019. The proposed reforms included by the Belcarra Report and discussions with stakeholders includes:

  • Compulsory preferential voting;
  • Compulsory candidate training;
  • Proportional representation in undivided councils;
  • Tighter regulation of discretionary funds;
  • Campaign spending caps; and
  • Clarification of COI/MPI provisions.

Integrity is a significant issue to ensure current and future Councillors are fully informed about their obligations as candidates and Councillors. Councillors are required to uphold the highest levels of honesty and impartiality when making decisions in the public interest. The intent of the Palaszczuk Government is to clarify and strengthen transparency requirement before, during and after an election to enable voters to better know who they are voting for and reduce corruption risks. It’s also about the community understanding why councils make the decisions they do in the public interest. There’s a raft of proposed changes greater than those listed above.  All these matters will be put to the vote at the 2nd April meeting for advice to the State Government. LGAQ is proposing that members oppose all proposed changes with the exception of campaign spending caps and supporting the introduction of legislation to prevent the potential distorting influence of electoral expenditure by third parties with aligned interests.

Mayor’s Message 3

1 March 2019

There’s a positive mood around the Council Chambers as a result of Council’s direction to adopt a clear vision and implement new strategies to improve the road network

February’s operational report on Council’s works program unveiled a new era of operational focus and for the first time, real results for our community.  Whilst we had achieved some good outcomes in the past, the time was well and truly passed where as a Council, if we continued to base decisions on past methods we cannot expect different outcomes. 

Council commenced a journey some time ago to look at ‘WHY’ its road network was not improving and ‘HOW’ things could be done differently.  That ‘WHY’ and the ‘HOW’ resulted in a series of key changes to our organisation and community.  It started with the leadership in the Council Chambers itself to call in a third party external assessment to review and understand exactly what and where the problems were occurring.  This resulted in Councillors being fully informed of the entire road network condition – both unsealed and bitumen roads. Council had to start to make some hard calls on its core business and establish a new strategy for its road assets. A strategy that actually could be delivered focuses on the basic 4 R’s:  re-sheeting, reseals, rehabilitation and road maintenance.

You need backbone to lead and take committed action. All that matters are the results.  The Roads and Portfolio Report to Council in February provided a clear picture of RESULTS and what we believed would drive the journey of solving our road problem.  We have listened to our ratepayers.  We have seriously thought about the way forward.  Now we are in the EXECUTION phase.  If you don’t live out the vision of what is needed, then there would be a continuation of making excuses.  There was a challenge when this Council term commenced in April 2016.  It’s taken the combined effort of Councillors, Senior Staff, Employees and our Ratepayers.  I believe in the process that we have adopted to deliver our vision. Never before in my time in Council has there been such a determined focus to change.

Our road network will possibly never be perfect.  No one’s ever is. There will always be potholes and rough roads, just as there are always houses that need to be painted. But what matters now is that we are executing; our network improves every day; we are grading roads; we are re-sheeting; we are resealing; we are getting RESULTS.

I invite you to view our results and follow Council’s works program via our Roads and Portfolio Link 20th February on Council’s Website.  As the next months’ advance, watch the progress to establish the results. 

Mayor’s Message 2.2

19 February 2019

I’m enthused with the direction taken by Council’s Economic Development branch.  In the same manner I am very proud of the South Burnett business community.  We are a diversified economy with industries such as agriculture, food processing and health and social care leading the way.

Nowadays, there is more communication and collaboration developing amongst our business operators. Our regional economy is on the move. I commend initiatives such as the latest Business Breakfast organised by ‘Coffee Chats with Matt Collins’. At this event, it was gratifying to hear from local businesses who have stepped beyond the borders of the South Burnett to add further value to their business by diversifying their reach into other locations.

Council is helping this expansion by offering business networking and forum opportunities. An example of this is the recent presentation of Local Buy offers. Local Buy gives suppliers an opportunity to sell to Local Government. Queensland Councils are responsible for building and maintaining a large range of assets including roads, libraries, parks and gardens, leisure centres and waste facilities. In achieving this objective, Queensland Local Government entities spend approximately $12B on operating and capital expenditure and manage over $108B in total assets each year. The forum encouraged South Burnett businesses to consider becoming Local Buy suppliers and to step beyond the borders of the South Burnett to engage in opportunities that 76 other Councils in Queensland have on tender at various times.  Of course, some of the locations are out of the question, however, the take away point is that Local Government is a big business. The type of business opportunities that this Council has on offer are varied and performed by South Burnett contractors is replicated throughout Local Government in Queensland.

If there are local businesses ready to spread their wings and expand their trades skill into other Local Government locations, then Local Buy is a platform that can help them launch. There is enormous benefit for our economy when dollars earned outside our region come back to the South Burnett for spending or investment.

Mayor’s Message 2

1 February 2019

Last weekend we celebrated Australia Day and awarded individuals and groups for their outstanding contributions to the region.

There were 54 nominees for the awards. The legacy to the South Burnett is that we have identified some mighty individuals and groups who live among us, do great things and add to the quality of life for everyone in our region. These are people who contribute without the need for reward.

Each year, recognition is given in various categories of endeavour for people who are dedicated in giving of their time and commitment. It can be sport, cultural activities, community events, festivals, clubs, groups, organisations or volunteering.

To everyone who was nominated for an award, I want to thank you and express well wishes for your future efforts and to thank you for your participation. To the winners in each category we offer hearty congratulations.

Everything we do in life is not achieved successfully without much hard work, commitment, passion and dedication.  Not only that, but so much hard work is done from an inner desire to help and give, not for personal gain or prestige.

Often times many personal sacrifices are made in this spirit of giving. It is said Australia is the lucky country, but it is also true that the harder you work, the luckier you become. The point for thought is the pleasure and satisfaction it produces when you can feel the reward of your hard work gives to a worthwhile cause. This is particularly so for festivals and events. Be they small localised affairs or more grand offerings that bring many visitors from out of the region.

The benefits are felt right across the region in economic terms and enjoyment for those who attend to give support. Next year’s awards will no doubt bring forward another large group of worthy nominees from our region. Keep your eyes open for those who go over and beyond the call of duty and ensure they are nominated in the line-up of next year’s candidates. We do indeed live in a great part of Australia – the South Burnett.

Mayor’s Message 1

18 January 2019

Council is developing the rates presentation for the 2019/20 Financial Year.  It is expected that the General Rate increase will be in line with the latest CPI adjustment, however, this is yet to be finalised.   

Every ratepayer in the region contributes towards a number of services in their General Rate.  These services include – Roads; Parks and Gardens; Buildings and Property Maintenance; Swimming Pools and Public Halls; Information Technology and Communications; Customer Service Centres and Administration; Economic Development and Tourism; Libraries; Public Conveniences and Cemeteries; Pest Management; Community Support Heritage and the Arts; Environmental Health; Planning and Building Activities; Depreciation; and a number of smaller investments in a range of activities.  Approximately 50% of the General Rate component is spent on the design, maintenance and renewal of our road network. 

There are also additional services including Water Reticulation, Waste Water (Sewerage) and Waste Collection (Rubbish), that only those ratepayers who are provided those services pay for.  Water, Waste Water and Waste Collection are regarded as business units of Council that need to operate as a business would.  The cost of equipment and technology together with capital upgrades is paid solely by those ratepayers who use that service.  Some significant upgrades to aged water and sewerage treatment plants are being investigated and will need to be factored in to future budgets. The majority of rural ratepayers do not make a contribution in their rates toward these three business units. The reality is, regardless if you use swimming pools, libraries, parks or halls, every ratepayer irrespective of where they live, pays for these community services relative to their rating category and in proportion to property valuation.  

There are some 45 differing rate categories spread across the 17,500 ratepayers who make up the South Burnett. I am happy to provide further information to any ratepayer who requires more information about their rates. 

The next budget will be handed down in June and over the next couple of months Council will communicate information about the budget to keep ratepayers informed.