There was a near unanimous vote to strike on rates if de-merger wishes are not heard.
There was a near unanimous vote to strike on rates if de-merger wishes are not heard. Matthew Purcell

'Desperate times': Residents refusing to pay council rates

RATEPAYERS in one Queensland region are planning to refuse to pay their council's fees, as part of a longstanding protest related to council amalgamation. 

At a community meeting, residents on the Granite Belt have voted to take extreme measures if their de-amalgamation wishes are not heard.

More than 1000 people turned out at C.F White Oval for a public demonstration on Sunday. The date marks almost a year since the first similar public meeting, in the same place.

"How far are you willing to go to fight for your freedom? Would you consider a ratepayers strike regarding the payments of rates and utility costs to Southern Downs Regional Council once we've obtained legal advice and set up a legal structure?"

That was the question put to the crowd. Only five hands of almost 1200 went up saying they would not support a strike.

"This has never been done in Australia," Granite Belt Community Association president Rev Alan Colyer said.

"A ratepayer strike would get the attention of the world because its never been done. It has been discussed but no one has had the guts.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures. This council is not listening.

"It's saying to the mayor, to all the councillors, to the CEO - we've had enough. We have to do something drastic," he said.

 

Members of the GBCA after the rally.
Members of the GBCA after the rally. Matthew Purcell

Rate charges would instead be paid into a trust set up.

On Tuesday morning, SDRC councillors will finally have their vote on the matter.

They will vote on whether the battle to split is torpedoed, or allowed to progress and go to an independent review conducted by the Change Commission.

Whether they vote no or not, the crowd were unanimous in their desire to see the GBCA continue their fight.

On top of that, a vote of no confidence motion was uniformly backed.

The motion was that "we move a vote of no confidence in the government's requirements regarding the process to de-amalgamate on the basis of the following:

a) the purposeful intent of the SDRC throughout the process to downplay the issue and refuse to listen to the people of the Granite Belt and its needs.

b) the process allowing the council to have a direct veto and to be able to stop de-amalgamation via a resolution when they have a direct conflict of interest for example in regards to their pay scale. This takes away the people's democratic right to have a say in the de-amalgamation proposal.

c) The Queensland Treasury Corporation report not being an independent review of the GBCA's proposal but instead a review of a completely different proposal. Further, the QTC was engaged by the SDRC and the minister's office and included nine meetings with the council and none with the GBCA. As a result we have no confidence in the findings of this report," the motion read.

Member for Southern Downs James Lister was one of several to speak. He urged council to step aside and let the people have a voice.

"Let the people have their say. Politicians get out of the way and allow this to progress to a genuinely independent review," he said.

There were a further 600 official apologies from people who couldn't attend the rally.

The council says they'll wait to comment on the matter after Tuesday's meeting.

"The mayor and/or council does not have any further comment to add around de-amalgamation or the rally before Tuesday's Council General Meeting," an SDRC spokesperson said.

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