Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan and Mayor Tracy Dobie.
Southern Downs Regional Council CEO David Keenan and Mayor Tracy Dobie. Michael Nolan

Split advocates, SDRC respond to Queensland Treasury finding

THE case for de-amalgamation was dealt a blow with the Queensland Treasury Corporation reporting a new Granite Belt Regional Council would not be financially viable without a huge rate increase.

But key de-amalgamation advocate Alan Colyer rejected the report and claimed the QTC was given "dishonest figures.”

The QTC report identified cost blow-outs for staffing, information technology and equipment needed to run a new council.

Rates for Granite Belt residents would increase by 82 per cent, to an average of about $4726 for each property to cover costs.

They include an estimated $2.21million one-off cost for an IT system for the new council. This would be followed by $1.1million in later years. Extra staff are estimated at $1.1million in the first year and $6.49million in ongoing annual costs.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie said information supplied to the QTC was the same as that given to the Granite Belt Community Association, with the exception of details about individual staff salaries.

She added that dividing the current staff by geography was an oversimplification.

"The staff employed out of the Stanthorpe office are not just working on tasks that are Stanthorpe focused,” she said.

"Those staff will have to be completely restructured and the skills won't necessarily align to the skills needed in the new council.”

At the same time the transition team managing the division will increase the staff costs - and state law insists the new council pay their costs.

The report compared recent de-amalgamations, including at Noosa. It also provide details comparisons staff costs across similar Queensland councils.

The negative assessment does not mean de-amalgamation is dead in the water.

Councillors will vote at the end of the month to advance the proposal, a regional referendum will be called and the state government will decide whether to split the region.

Cr Dobie suggested the costs would be too much for some residents.

"There are many residents who would like de-amalgamation,” she said.

"But there is always a qualifier, that they don't want to have to pay for it.”

GBCA president Alan Colyer rejected the QTC report and said the council supplied the QTC with "dishonest” figures.

He said the council estimated the new organisation required 180 staff, well above the 110 employed in the old Stanthorpe Shire Council. Rev Colyer said exaggerations like this meant the public could not trust the QTC rate rise estimate.

"Rather than examine the GBCA de-amalgamation proposal, they instead reviewed a totally different proposal supplied by Southern Downs council, which was based on different criteria,” he said

Rev Colyer said the QTC report relied on SRDC estimates.

"The council's exaggerated costing of our proposal was examined while our actual proposal was ignored along with its responsible costing.

"It seems the only way to have our proposal considered impartially will be to submit it to the Government's Change Commission. We'll ask the Local Government Minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, to do that.”