‘I know this seems harsh’: New fee for dog owners defended
A GYMPIE Regional councillor has defended a new fee that has caught dog owners by surprise this month, and left more than a few unimpressed.
Owners of chipped and desexed dogs are now being hit with an annual fee of $15, something that was brought down during the last budget, by a council facing serious financial challenges.
One “responsible dog owner” described the fee as “bull----” and another financial hit for struggling ratepayers in these difficult times.
“Who made this decision,” they said. “The council communications on this could have been better.”
The council was contacted for an official response but at time of publishing had to responded.
Cr Bruce Devereaux, who holds the Finance, Governance and ICT portfolio, posted this to his official Facebook page after criticism of the new fees was made by members of the public on social media.
“I know this seems harsh but I’m afraid in terms of fiscal responsibility we’d little choice, especially given the cost of pets to the region. Not just dog park construction and maintenance, but rangers and a sizeable contribution to RSPCA.
“Questions were asked when we considered this fee, such as whether other councils were charging pet owners. As such I know we compare extremely well to councils like Fraser Coast ($45), Gold Coast ($60), South Burnett ($45), and Brisbane ($38).
“I only looked those up just now but I think you might agree as confronting as the local fee is we’re still extremely reasonable.
“As a council we don’t have a lot of wiggle room at the moment when it comes to fees and charges: a position which we’ve made moves to improve but for now we have to try share the heavy lifting across our 50,000 residents and ratepayers.
“You may recall how long your current bunch of councillors worked through rates and fees and charges and the budget with relevant staff to come up with what we hoped would be recognised as a fair, if unfortunate in some respects, increase across a range of areas. We had to ask for an extension. No decision was made lightly.
“Fact is, when we took the controls, blue skies were somewhere way behind us and there was nothing but hard truths visible out the cockpit windows.
“The choices weren’t charge or not charge - as you’d ideally want under current economic conditions - but rather charge how much where.
“All because, unfortunately, some individuals in our recent past didn’t seem to grasp the concept of rainy days and keeping a little in the kitty to ride out storms. Seems they looked about and thought every day ahead would be just as sunny as the last.
“And if that sounds like sour grapes or trying to make our council decisions a ‘legacy issue’ then I guess I’ll have to cop that criticism on the chin, but personally I don’t think any decent argument can be made to back that accusation up. We are in the poor financial situation we are not because of any decision I’ve been a part of.
“All that being said, this is the first time this fee has been charged so, as with anyone who ever has a problem with paying any council fee/charge, I would encourage people struggling to contact staff to see if they can make some sort of an arrangement. Especially, it must be said, with the difficulties COV19 is presenting to us all.”