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Mayor Says Mergers Not All Bad

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South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell (Photo: SBRC)

March 13, 2018

The mergers of Queensland councils forced on communities by the State Government 10 years ago have not been all bad according to South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell.

On Tuesday, Mayor Campbell said it would be very interesting to see if the mergers had hit their key performance indicators.

“That presumes, of course, that the State Government of the day ever drew any up. But if they did I’ve never seen them,” he said.

The Mayor was responding to a statement by Member for Gympie Tony Perrett on Monday the mergers had been a big disappointment.

Mr Perrett said in hindsight they had been a cost-shifting exercise to transfer infrastructure costs from the State Government to ordinary ratepayers.

He said the mergers were the main reason rates had roughly doubled across most Queensland councils between 2008 and 2015.

Mayor Campbell said one positive of the mergers in the South Burnett was that it forced the Council to get on a better financial footing.

“The South Burnett Regional Council was rated as financially weak when it was formed in 2008, and put on financial watch by Queensland Treasury,” he said.

“This forced us to bring in a financial advisor to look over our accounts and analyse our finances.

“Looking back, this was a turning point from the way the old councils approached things, and following his advice has moved us to a better place.

“When the mergers happened Murgon was in real strife and Wondai probably wasn’t far off it.

“But now, all South Burnett residents can be confident our Council is financially sound and can look to the future with confidence.”

The Mayor said he was aware rates had risen substantially over pre-amalgamation levels, but thought the near-CPI rises of the past few years showed the initial crisis provoked by the mergers had passed.

Against this, he asked people to think about all the big projects the Council had undertaken in the past 10 years, many of which were beyond the resources of the former Councils.

He said the many millions that had been poured into water and wastewater treatment plants, swimming pools, drainage projects, bridges, streetscapes and community facilities had been long overdue and had set the region up for the future.

Other projects planned for coming years like the Kingaroy-Nanango pipeline would continue this drive to modernise the South Burnett and improve residents’ lives.

“I don’t often look back, I prefer to look forward,” Mayor Campbell said.

“But the fact is the mergers happened, they’re not going to be undone, and we have to work with the system we’ve got now.

“While I agree with the Member for Gympie the State Government may have overstated the benefits of the mergers, I can’t deny that there have been some positives in it, too.”

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