Ratepayers outraged

Cathy Smith with her Whitsunday Regional Council rates notice - her rates have gone up $1600 per year.
Cathy Smith with her Whitsunday Regional Council rates notice - her rates have gone up $1600 per year.

WHITSUNDAY ratepayers are determined to stop hefty rate increases in the region.

The Whitsunday Ratepayers Association has been revived and now has 182 members.

Just two months ago, the association had only 25 members.

Airlie Beach ratepayer Cathy Smith joined because she was angered with the increases in recent years.

Mrs Smith’s rates have gone up by $1600 in the past 12 months.

"It is ludicrous," she said.

"You just can’t [put the rates up] without justifying it.

"The value of our land hasn’t gone up in the last four years."

Retirees Elliot and Robin Biggs are also feeling the brunt.

"We have put the house on the market," Ms Biggs said.

"It is heartbreaking.

"We actually can’t afford it."

The couple built their Mandalay home about seven years ago with the idea of spending the rest of their lives there. They claim their rates have doubled in two years.

Robin’s partner Elliot said Council needed to start looking after its residents because the cost of rates was driving them away.

Whitsunday Regional Council mayor Mike Brunker said if residents were unhappy about rates, they should contact Council.

"I’m quite surprised they haven’t come to us in the first place," he said.

Mr Brunker said rates were once capped but nowadays were "balanced out".

"People always want capped rates but the people that pay expensive rates are usually sitting on expensive properties," he said.

Last month Mr Brunker said rates would rise by "hundreds of per cent" in order to meet the $140 million costs of upgrades to water and sewerage if council didn’t receive at least 40 per cent of the total cost from State and Federal Government.

Yesterday, the Whitsunday Times asked Premier Anna Bligh about the chances of Council getting a subsidy.

Ms Bligh gave no confirmation and simply said Council "would be considered" for a grant from the $45 million subsidy program along with other councils in the state.

Ms Bligh was in the Whitsundays for the launch of the new tourism brand.

Meanwhile, the Whitsunday Ratepayers Association plans to hold its first official meeting early next year when it expects to have at least 200 members.

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