Expert urges Mareeba and Port Douglas residents to vote with head, not heart on de-amalgamation
VOTE with your head, not your heart. That's the last-minute advice to residents of Port Douglas and Mareeba from the Boundaries Commissioner, who says ego and emotion have run away with the de-amalgamation debate.
Col Meng is in Cairns ahead of the referendum tomorrow, urging residents in the former shires to read his report before casting their votes.
He is concerned the debates in Douglas and Mareeba have been clouded by other data from de-amalgamation supporters, who have painted a rosier picture of the economic viability of a breakaway council.
"When people get out of bed on Sunday, I want them to know what they've voted for and the cost it will come at," Mr Meng told The Cairns Post yesterday.
"People are making comments and accusations and they don't have the expertise or the proof that what they're putting out is correct."
He said people jockeying for mayorand other high positions in the breakaway councils were promoting de-amalgamation for their own gain.
Based on Queensland Treasury Corporation data, Mr Meng found a revived Douglas or Mareeba shire council would be unsustainable and their ratepayers would be left to carry an "unwarranted financial burden."
He found de-amalgamation would cost Mareeba ratepayers an extra $872 on top of their rates in the first year, and an extra $240 each year after that, plus inflation.
In Douglas, de-amalgamation would cost each ratepayer an extra $701 in the first year, and an extra $462 each year after that, plus inflation.
Those figures have been disputed by lobby groups in both shires, who say a resurrected council could be run leaner.
But Mr Meng stood by his estimated costs yesterday, saying changes to the Local Government Act since amalgamation in 2008 have made it more costly to run a council, and the smaller councils couldn't meet the new standards without charging ratepayers for it.
"Local government has changed immensely and the community has come to expect the higher degree of services from their councils," he said.
Local Government Minister David Crisafulli yesterday reminded residents in the shires voting is compulsory tomorrow.
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Be sure: Boundaries Commissioner Col Meng has urged voters to use their heads and not their hearts when they go to the polls tomorrow: Picture: ANNA ROGERS