March 12, 2018
Member for Gympie Tony Perrett believes Council amalgamations, which were supposed to produce many benefits for ratepayers, have failed to deliver any value.
Speaking on the 10th anniversary of the controversial 2008 council mergers, the former Kilkivan Shire councillor and Gympie Regional Council Deputy Mayor said in hindsight, the mergers were really a State Government cost-shifting exercise.
Mr Perrett said after the mergers had been forced through, the Bligh Government withdrew State Government support for infrastructure, forcing the costs onto ordinary ratepayers.
This was the main reason average rate rises for the Gympie Regional Council were 7.1 per cent between 2008 and 2015, effectively doubling rates from pre-amalgamation times.
Mr Perrett told media the mergers were a great disappointment that had failed to deliver the promised outcomes.
“Throughout the state, councillors worked hard to make the new arrangements succeed with limited support and funding,” he said.
Mr Perret said sharing services would have saved money and allowed communities to retain their identity.
Instead, Council amalgamations simply increased living costs for ordinary people.
“As a former Kilkivan Shire councillor and then as Deputy Mayor of the new Gympie Regional Council, I saw first-hand the impact on smaller councils, their workforce and the social fabric of smaller communities that amalgamation has had,” Mr Perrett said.
“The local has been taken out of local government.”
Footnote: In 2013, five and a half years after the amalgamations, southburnett.com.au looked at how much rates had risen across the South Burnett using pre-amalgamation rates data.
At that time we found Blackbutt residents had suffered the lowest overall rate rises (21 per cent) since the 2008 amalgamations and Kingaroy residents the highest (78 per cent).
When we conducted this study the South Burnett Regional Council was still in the process of equalising rates across the region.
This process has now been carried out, and rate rises are more uniform.
One positive result of the 2008 amalgamation is that the South Burnett Regional Council’s overall financial rating with Queensland Treasury has improved.
The council was given a ‘weak’ rating when it amalgamated in 2008, and was placed on financial watch by the State Government.
It now has a ‘moderate’ rating, which is the highest a Council of its size can achieve, and was removed from financial watch several years ago.