De-amalgamation bids will bring bigger rate rises for all
ALL Cairns and Tablelands residents could be hit with big rate rises for at least two years if Mareeba and Douglas vote to de-amalgamate.
But by 2015, residents of greater Cairns will be paying less in rates and utilities than they would have if Douglas was still part of their council area, while Tablelanders will keep forking out for de-amalgamation for the foreseeable future. If Douglas and Mareeba vote in favour of de-amalgamation at referendums in March, the break-away shires will foot the bill for splitting, including the costs of staff, elections and whatever extra resources are needed in the old and new councils.
But reports from the Queensland Treasury Corporation show the divide would create sudden financial pressure in the remaining Cairns and Tablelands councils, which would have to deal with smaller population bases. Cairns and Tablelands Regional councils would have operating deficits for at least five years if the Douglas and Mareeba shires broke away, and it would take rate rises of up to 5 per cent a year just to balance the books, on top of the ordinary rate rises that come annually.
The increases in Cairns and the Tablelands would be modest compared to the rates demanded of residents in Mareeba and Douglas, but many ratepayers outside the breakaway shires have incorrectly assumed they won't take a hit to the hip pocket.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli said the release of the reports allowed residents to be aware of all the costs before the Douglas and Mareeba communities vote in March.
``The process of the forced amalgamations means there's no easy answers,'' Mr Crisafulli said.
``We've addressed the issue as fairly as possible by putting all de-amalgamation costs for both councils on to the proponents.
``We have been totally honest and up front with communities about the costs.''
The average ratepayer in the Cairns region would pay $3142 next year if Douglas breaks away instead of the $3116 they'd pay if de-amalgamation does not occur. And another $107 would have to be charged for Cairns Regional Council to get out of its operating deficit.
But by 2015, residents in Cairns would be paying less than they would if the council was still servicing the Douglas region as well.
However, the strain of de-amalgamation would last longer in the Tablelands, where residents will be paying higher rates for the foreseeable future if Tablelands Regional Council is to get out of the debt caused by the proposed split.
The average Tableland ratepayer would be billed $2263 next year if Mareeba breaks away, rather than the $2260 they'd pay if de-amalgamation did not occur.
It would take another $43 from each ratepayer to bring Tablelands Regional Council's deficit back to black next year, and that extra charge would grow as high as $119 in the next five years.
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Flashback: Douglas residents protest against their forced amalgamation with Cairns in 2007.