A landmark court ruling which has thrown open the gate for thousands of Fraser Coast ratepayers to have their rates refunded will have no effect locally.
On November 8, Brisbane Supreme Court Justice David Jackson found Fraser Coast Regional Council had issued three years’ worth of invalid rate notices because, since 2014-15, it had failed to pass a separate resolution to levy its rates and charges during its annual Budget meetings.
The ruling was made after a rural services company was taken to court by the Fraser Coast Regional Council for unpaid rates.
Linville Holdings successfully argued its rate bills were invalid because the council had failed to pass the separate resolution for the past three years.
The Council now has 28 days to lodge an appeal, or face having to refund millions of dollars in rates it has already spent.
However, the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has downplayed the idea the court ruling will have any effect.
“The Supreme Court handed down a ruling against the validity of the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s past three years’ rating which parts of the media did their level best to turn into a statewide crisis – it isn’t,” LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam said in his weekly column.
“After a quarter of a century seeing all sorts of weird and unexpected turns of events I’ve learned to take a deep breath, consult the experts and stick to a fundamental truth: the bigger the problem, the more certain a solution will be found.”
Mr Hallam said the LGAQ had already spoken to Queensland’s 25 largest councils, law firm King and Company, the Department of Local Government and both major political parties, as well as sent a circular to all the state’s other councils to alert them to the issue.
“The 28-day appeal period following the Court’s decision has to roll over before any other action can occur,” Mr Hallam said.
“Meanwhile the LGAQ, King & Company and the Department are working together to find a meaningful solution to put to whomever forms government after the November 25 election.”
One possible solution an incoming State Government could apply is to amend the law retrospectively to nullify the Supreme Court ruling.
On Tuesday, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said he was aware of the situation, but not concerned about it.
“I have been advised by our CEO and our Rates Department staff that we do pass a separate resolution to levy our rates and charges each year,” he said.
“So this ruling would have no effect on the South Burnett Regional Council.
“We have very good staff who comply with the Local Government Act.”