Ratepayers’ Association established in the Shire

LOCAL COMMUNITY BODY

Howard Salkow

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The Douglas Shire Ratepayers' Association (DSRA) was yesterday presented at a meeting of the Mossman Cane Farmers. From left, cane farmer Gino Santarossa, Clint Reynolds, vice president of the DSRA, and DSRA president Sylvia Healy. Image: Supplied.
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With just over two months to go until the local government election, a group of local ratepayers have established a Douglas Shire Ratepayers’ Association (DSRA) with key objectives of holding Council accountable for the decisions they make, the actions they take and the services they deliver using ratepayers’ money.

“A ratepayers’ association is not new to the Douglas Shire; one was in place in the early 1900s,” said Sylvia Healy, a founding member who will serve as president of the DSRA.

She said the major goal of the DSRA is to provide a much stronger link between ratepayers and Council than currently exists, and to ensure more consultation and transparency when decisions are being made.

“It’s time to re-establish this important community association to ensure ratepayers are heard. I think it’s fair to say that there are many in the community who are concerned about some of the decisions and actions of this Council and the lack of genuine engagement and transparency,” said Ms Healy.

She said there has already been considerable support with many joining and she is looking at a membership base in excess of 1,000 members.

“The strength of the ratepayers’ association will be entirely dependent on its membership. We will only get the ear of Council if we have the numbers, so we urge every ratepayer to become a member and have a say,” said Ms Healy.

Ratepayers’ associations are not new to Queensland and they play key roles in areas such as Townsville, Cairns, Ipswich and Logan, among other cities and towns.

Ms Healy said she urged all ratepayers to come on board to ensure the key issues are heard.

“With Council elections on 28 March, now is the time to send a strong message to Council that we will be watching and holding Council representatives accountable for the decisions they make,” she said.

The DSRA will be a collective voice on key issues affecting the Shire and aims to ensure the Council acts in the best interests of all ratepayers.

“There are many ratepayers who have no say in Council elections because they don’t permanently live here. Coincidently a large proportion of these ratepayers own property in units which have the highest rate in the dollar general rates (almost double Category 1).

“The DSRA will give all ratepayers a voice. We are concerned by the persistent rate increases, lack of effective water resource management, and unplanned discretionary spending.

“It’s time ratepayers have a more active say in how its money is being spent and the governance of the Shire,” said Ms Healy.

Ms Healy alluded to Council nearly committing the Shire to an ill-conceived carbon credit scheme with an initial approximate $600k uncapped commitment over three years and a promise of millions of dollars of advertising and publicity which was never going to come to fruition.

“This showed at the very least incompetence, and at worst a disregard for appropriate community engagement, consultation and a lack of due diligence,” said Ms Healy.

This is in reference to Council’s proposed Healthy Reef Partnership with Qantas, Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) and GreenCollar to offset the Council’s carbon footprint through carbon sequestration projects.

Although negotiations with Qantas were ceased, the proposed plan would have enabled Douglas Shire Council to become carbon neutral by purchasing premium carbon offsets located in Rawbelle, Queensland and provide marketing opportunities with Qantas.

Ms Healy, meanwhile, advised that DSRA had joined forces with the Queensland Local Government Reform Association (QLGRA) who have been very supportive and provided valuable information on local government reform initiatives at a state and federal level.

She also advised there will be a joint Think Tank/DSRA public meeting on Saturday 7 March from 2pm to 4pm at the Mossman Bowls Club.

For more information, go to: Douglas Rate Payers or visit their Facebook page.


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