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Time To Tackle The Real Waste

Filed under Editorial

April 16, 2018

by Dafyd Martindale

The recent announcement by the South Burnett Regional Council that it intends to make further cuts to community funding so it can find more money for road maintenance will please some people but upset a lot of others.

Roads have been an ongoing problem for Council ever since it was formed in 2008.

The South Burnett has a 3200km road network, and about half of it is unsealed.

This network requires almost half the Council’s Budget each year to maintain.

Our region’s roads were badly impacted by the 2011 and 2013 floods, and those blows set the Council’s maintenance program back so badly that now – five years later – it still hasn’t fully recovered.

In an effort to get major dirt roads trafficable as quickly as possible after the floods, a large number of minor dirt roads were allowed to deteriorate to the point where they now require major rebuilds.

On latest estimates, this is going to cost about $10 million to remedy.

But is putting the boot into community groups to save less than $120,000 over the next two years the right way to approach this problem?

The cutbacks have the potential to make life harder for not-for-profit groups which are already working hard to make ends meet.

It looks and feels like a slap in the face to the volunteers in these groups who work so hard to keep them going.

And for what?

As Cr Ros Heit points out, the money saved wouldn’t fill in more than a couple of pot holes.

It would be less painful to the community if a bit less landscaping went into the proposed Glendon Street plaza … a project which has already cost ratepayers $253,000 just in the planning process!

Is it so hard to find $120,000 in savings when our Council runs five loss-making swimming pools, five Visitor Information Centres and six libraries?

Yes, community groups may be an easy target for cuts.

But the real cuts – cuts that would make a substantial and lasting difference to the bottom line – need to be made in areas that are politically unpalatable.

Closing a few pools, reducing the number of visitor centres and libraries, and selling off a few town halls would produce ongoing savings that would rapidly get our Council’s finances – and our road networks – back in good shape.

It is the simple and obvious path out of the shamble of services the Council inherited and has been maintaining over the past decade, despite the endless sea of red ink those services generate.

Putting the axe through some of them could be done in a way that shares the pain equally among all our towns.

It would be well worth the Council’s time to study the positive effects a few sensible service cuts could have on its bottom line.

However, that would require more political courage from our Council than we’re seeing at the moment.


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3 Responses to Time To Tackle The Real Waste

  1. C. Marshman - Nanango

    I am commenting on your suggestion that the Council reduce services to the community (close some pools, visitor information centres and libraries) and sell off assets (town halls). Are you brave enough to suggest which towns should lose their pools, V.I.C.s and libraries?

    In my view, Councils are there to provide services to their community and this means they cannot ever be profit making entities. Also, in my opinion, there are an increasing number of people who want everything now but think someone else should pay for it.

    As for selling off town halls etc. who would buy them? If for some unfathomable reason private enterprise purchased the buildings, we would either lose venues for a number of events/performances or the cost of using same would be much higher.

    There are a large number of civic minded people who volunteer their time in the libraries and V.I.Cs (not all are there to qualify for a Centrelink payment), so perhaps more people could think about ways to serve their community and thereby reduce Council expenditure.

  2. Katlin Biggs

    Well said

  3. Abigail Andersson

    I volunteered in a VIC and see this “saving” as an insult. Basically, serving your community is a thankless job which often costs you money. I feel the Council are just making it more difficult for those already doing part of their job for them. I can’t see how on the search for “efficiency” it appears the very people they want to support are being targeted first. Should we not be last on a very long list of cutbacks? When it’s our time that has been saving them money. Community groups are the fabric of the community and leaving it threadbare serves no purpose but to destroy our resilient members which they constantly run funded programs to encourage. Makes absolutely no sense.

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