Bowen ratepayers calling on Minister to investigate
THE newly formed Whitsunday Regional Ratepayers Association, based in Bowen, is calling on the Minister for Local Government, David Crisafulli, to investigate the Whitsunday Regional Council.
The association called a meeting in Bowen on Tuesday which attracted about 400 people.
Association president Ross Newell said the meeting was called so that people could see a presentation about the impact of rate increases and the new levy.
Mr Newell said Cr Whitney had stood for council on a platform of transparency and communication but that transparency had been a concern as the rate rises were higher than had been communicated by council.
"Some businesses were now facing rate increases of $10,000 and $15,000," he said.
He said his association had been inundated with people wanting to join the new association - and they had given out more than 300 applications for membership at Tuesday night's meeting.
Mr Newell said the association would now be writing to the Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli and asking him to interfere.
"We will be providing him with the information about the poor standard of the financial reporting of Whitsunday Regional Council - and we will be asking him to step in and do a full investigation."
Mr Newell said a simple solution to some of the financial woes of the current council would be to renegotiate the loans.
"That would take the sting out of it for the community," he said.
Council's mayor Jennifer Whitney attended the meeting and addressed the large crowd.
After the meeting, she said she would welcome any investigation by the Minister and that the council was not hiding anything.
She said Council had found out about the financial issues when the Queensland Audit Office would not sign off on the financial statements for the year ending June 2012.
"We have had the Queensland Audit Office and the Queensland Treasury Corporation go through our books," she said.
Speaking about the possibility of renegotiating the loans, Cr Whitney said it was emergent funding that Council had received from Treasury and that was quite different to a loan.
"We negotiated emergent funding to be able to continue to operate the business," she said.
"Once we accepted that, we had to deliver a budget and I would have never handed down such a tough budget but we had no choice," she said.
Cr Whitney said she believed the State Government was confident that the current council would get things back on track.
Speaking about the reduction of the ten per cent discount to five per cent, Cr Whitney said the Burdekin Regional Council had scrapped the discount all together.