Resident warns rates strike is a 'dangerous road to go down'
MORE than a thousand people from the Granite Belt have threatened to take drastic action, saying they would consider refusing to pay council rates as part of a push to carry their de-amalgamation campaign through to the very end.
"How far are you willing to go to fight for your freedom?” were the words Reverend Alan Colyer put to a crowd of de-amalgamation supporters on Sunday.
"This has never been done before in Australia.”
The rally in Stanthorpe marked a year since the first public meeting held by Granite Belt Community Association, the group spearheading the campaign.
Of more than a thousand people, only five at the meeting said they would not consider taking part in a ratepayers strike.
"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,” Rev Colyer said.
The pledge came ahead of tomorrow's Southern Downs Regional Council meeting.
At the meeting, local politicians will consider their official position in relation to the community association's de-amalgamation proposal.
For the process to continue, the council must show Minister for Local Government Stirling Hinchliffe it supports the change.
Ballandean Estate Wines client relations manager Leanne Gangemi said there would be no need for a rates strike if local politicians "made the right decision” at today's meeting.
"I just think it is about being in charge of our own destiny,” Mrs Gangemi said.
But Warwick Credit Union CEO Lewis von Stieglitz said asking individuals to strike was a "dangerous road to go down” for the community association.
"I think that fails the polite, respectful and professional test,” Mr von Stieglitz said.
"It is not appropriate to refuse to pay your taxes. It would put individuals in a very difficult position to be asked to act illegally and improperly.”
Rev Colyer said the organisation would seek legal advice on the idea of a ratepayer strike, but "desperate times called for desperate measures”.
"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.
A lifelong Ballandean resident and successful tourism business operator, Mrs Gangemi said the Granite Belt's identity had been swallowed up through the process of amalgamation.
"A lot of us remember how successful it was when we ran our own council, particularity in tourism when we had more opportunity to have a say,” she said.
"We were successful before why could we not be successful again?”
Member for Southern Downs James Lister also spoke at the rally, urging council to step aside.
"Let the people have their say. Politicians get out of the way and allow this to progress to a genuinely independent review,” he said.
Mr von Stieglitz said he would support the process if the economics stacked up, but a report by the Queensland Treasury Corporation tabled at a council meeting on April 10 found de-amalgamation was not financially viable.
It found Southern Downs and Granite Belt residents would be hit with an 82 per cent rate rise.
"The only comment for wanting to leave I have heard is from a Stanthorpe perspective. That may be because Warwick people haven't really put their mind to it. It is really hard to know,” Mr von Stieglitz said.
A council spokesperson said the council would comment on the matter after tomorrow's meeting, which would be held at the Warwick Town Hall instead of its usual venue in the council chambers.
The Warwick Daily News understands association is organising a charter bus for more than 30 people to attend.