Alarm over rates increase

RURAL ratepayers facing the real possibility of losing their livelihoods may have handed the LNP their winning issue for the next state election.

Although Queensland isn’t due to hit the polls until early next year, Central Highlands Regional Ratepayers Association Incorporated president Kevin Pickersgill is convinced a meeting with State and Federal politicians regarding rates hikes will be a hot topic before the next election.

“I’ll be dead honest with you, rates are a core issue,” Mr Pickersgill told Central Queensland News.

“We put subtle pressure on the LNP to take these matters into consideration, and they were very receptive.

“I think they’ll be... easier to deal with than the current government.”

Monday’s meeting followed months of campaigning by the CHRRAI and like-minded groups such as the Isaac Regional Ratepayers Association for rates reductions, more royalties being returned to the region, and for clarification and understanding of land rights by landholders.

Returning mining royalties to the Central Highlands and surrounding local government areas, and thereby reducing fiscal pressure on councils, was flagged as a “massive job” for the state opposition, but something that could “certainly get the votes” from the rural sector.

“They (the LNP) understood the ratepayers can’t be forced to fund this demand on infrastructure, and if we can get these royalties back to the regions, it’s going to take a lot of pressure off the council,” Mr Pickersgill said.

“The ideas from the meeting were put to the Opposition representatives for them to consider when they form their policy before the next election.

“The rates issue is a symptom of what’s happening state and federally, and as a result, council has no choice but to put up rates but we can’t just go bashing down the State Government’s door without going higher up the ladder.”

That ladder leads to Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd’s attendance at the meeting, who said the farmers were justified in their fight for fairer rates.

“They want a rates reduction and no more increases, that’s for sure,” he said.

“The rates they are being charged, they feel, are going to other avenues and not being returned to landholders in any way, shape or form.”

Mr O’Dowd said he would take the rates hike to Canberra, despite the issue being a State Government concern, after he sighted a rates notice that showed an increase of 1000% in the last three years.

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