Friends of the Earth Kuranda took the opportunity of the forthcoming referendum regarding de-amalgamation to ask a set of questions.
These were directed to Mayor Rosa Lee Long. head of the current, united Tablelands Regional Council and former Mareeba Shire Mayor Mick Borzi, a spokesperson for the ‘Concferned Mareeba Residents’ who are pushing for de-amalgamation.
The replies from both are below:
Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Rosa Lee Long
If de-amalgamation does NOT occur:
What do you anticipate the Tablelands Regional Councils average rate increase (if any) will be in the coming years 2014-16?
a) The first general rate increase of this Council was just 3.8 per cent. It was significantly lower than the increases of the previous TRC because, in large part, much of the expense of amalgamation has now been paid. It will be a decision of the council during deliberations for each budget on what general rate increase may apply each year. However I would expect similar, or lower increases to that 3.8 per cent as the benefits of amalgamation begin to kick in. It is important to recognise that should de-amalgamation proceed there are massive implications for ratepayers in a new MSC. They will be faced with paying the cost of de-amalgamation ($8.2 million) and, on their own, the cost of upgrading Mareeba’s sewage plant (estimated $25 million) instead of sharing that cost across the TRC via our unified sewage charge, the cost of identified infrastructure shortfalls ($14 million) without the support of the southern areas (which have injected some $7 million more into the northern areas to catch up on neglected maintenance than a stand-alone MSC could have afforded) and the list goes on. The issue is not just the cost of the de-amalgamation, but also the size of the infrastructure burden Mareeba Shire rate-payers would have to face alone under de-amalgamation.
Q) Does the TRC intend to continue the practice of discounts for early payment of rates and the pensioner discount?
Do you have any plans to improve transparency and public input in local decision making processes?
a) Already this council has made agendas for each meeting available on its website almost a week ahead (on the Friday before the Thursday meetings) thus allowing anyone with an interest plenty of time to see what is being considered. They are also available to media outlets at the same time (that is, almost a week ahead) further allowing scrutiny.
I believe the divisional system of councillors also allows easier community access as each councillor can focus on their division and be accessible to the residents of that division.
We are at present engaged in a very extensive public consultation process on the draft Planning Scheme for the TRC. This has involved writing to every ratepayer, providing individual information to those likely to be affected and hosting information sessions across the region where one-on-one consultation is available for those with concerns. This is a very extensive program for a major issue however I believe it is a clear indication of the TRC’s readiness to engage and consult.
Also this council has honoured community feedback in regard to fluoridation of town water supplies and succeeded in avoiding its addition until the State Government finally removed the requirement all together.
Council meetings are, as always, open to the public.
Q) WATER QUALITY.
Is ensuring water quality important to you?
Q) Do you support regular and fully-comprehensive testing of the Kuranda and Mareeba drinking water supplies for faecal contaminants, pesticides and other toxic chemicals – as well as full public disclosure of the testing results using council’s website?
a) I support close and consistent testing in accordance with required standards. The existing TRC testing regime meets those requirements.
Q) When do you expect the Mareeba sewerage plant to be upgraded?
a) If de-amalgamation is defeated at the 9 March poll, I anticipate a decision will be made at the next TRC meeting after that date and the upgrade then commence as quickly as is possible.
What are your priorities for the Kuranda area? Do these include protection of areas of high bio-diversity and reduction of waste eg by roadside recycling?
a) My priorities for the Kuranda area are to progress the Community Precinct, work to ensure the Village in the Rainforest appeal is maintained and enhanced and that tourism continues to grow in harmony with the setting.
Issues surrounding bio-diversity and high-value areas are largely governed by State Government requirements such as the overlays that are part of our draft Planning Scheme. We are engaging with the State on these issues.
Roadside recycling is already being assessed as a potential part of future environmental initiatives for the TRC.
Mareeba Concerned Citizens Spokesperson Mick Borzi
Questions: If deamalgamation does occur
What do you anticipate the newly established Mareeba Shire Council (MSC)’s average rate increase (if any) would be in the coming years 2014-2016?. Other than in rare exceptional circumstances, rate increases should be limited to CPI
Would the MRC continue the practice of discounts for early payment of rates and the pensioner discount? Yes to both questions
Would MSC retain the new division system so that Kuranda has its own councillor? I do not know if the question of divisions will be up to the Council or initially a decision by the Minister as was the case with TRC. However if unlike some previous elections, Kuranda gets behind its local candidate , that person can win regardless of whether there are divisions or not.
Would MSC retain the practice of publishing both council meeting agendas and minutes , including councillors’ conflicts of interests, on the council website? Yes and I believe meetings should be open to the public and the decisions made by elected people not delegated to Officers.
Is ensuring water quality important to you? Yes.
Do you support regular and fully-comprehensive testing of the Kuranda and Mareeba drinking water supplies for faecal contaminants,pesticides and other toxic chemicals – as well as full public disclosure of the testing results, using the Council website? Yes and I favour it done by Council staff instead of Contractors. I believe that local jobs are important to underpin the economy.
When do you expect the Mareeba sewerage plant could be updated and where would the funding come from?It would be funded by charges, however with de-amalgamation Mareeba Shire ratepayers would be relieved of contributing to sewerage and waste levy for the other towns in TRC .
Would you adopt the in-development TRC planning scheme for the area- either in its entirety or in parts? If not, what planning scheme would you regard as applicable to a newly re- established MSC? As I am hearing numerous concerns expressed by property owners about the proposed TRC planning scheme I intend to examine the perceived problems before reaching conclusions.
What are your priorities for the Kuranda area? Do these include protection of areas of high biodiversity and reduction of waste e.g by kerbside recycling? Kuranda is a very important part of Mareeba Shire and I believe more so in the future. Under the old MSC it had more done for it than has been the case in the past five years. Protection of certain areas is important . Kerbside recycling should be considered but its implementation should be preceded by an extensive campaign to ensure it is fully utilised.