Rockhampton Regional Council. Photo: Chris Ison
Rockhampton Regional Council. Photo: Chris Ison

LETTER TO RRC: ‘Are we in this together?’

NORTH Rockhampton resident Leyland Barnett submitted a letter to the editor, calling on Rockhampton Regional Council to "listen and help the community" and not increase rates and charges.

Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow strelow responded to the letter (below), saying council was still working on the budget and it would have "minimal impact on the community".

Letter to the editor from Leyland Barnett

I CANNOT believe that some media outlets believe that we are all in this together, in regards to the coronavirus in our community.

According to Sky News, figures show that 20 per cent of our workforce, including politicians and public servants, have not received any financial pain from cutbacks due to the COVID-19 virus, yet have dictated closures to private industry resulting in thousands of people out of jobs.

It is claimed that this pandemic is going to be as bad as the depression years when people were out on the streets begging for jobs or even committing suicide.

Let's wait and see until the six-month assistance with bank loans and government assistance packages ends.

We can thank the Federal Government on taking measures towards reducing the immediate impact on Australian families with programs such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper that have immediately given financial assistance.

We can thank the State Government with assistance with electricity costs, by introducing a $200 for private and $500 assistance for business.

The problem is not going to be solved when state and federal government assistance is gobbled up by some greedy council that wants to increase rates and charges.

For everyone to be in this together, we need to make changes towards working together as a community and in some cases sharing the pain.

Some councils have already taken pay cuts or pay freezes.

Some councils have initiated support to the battlers in our community by freezing rates or reducing rates.

Some councils listened and help their communities.

Response from Rockhampton Region Mayor Margaret Strelow

WE ARE still working on the budget. I've made statements already that we are trying to make this a very minimal impact on our community. We hope to bring the budget down in mid-July.

Separately, council has wiped a several fees and charges and interest. This has amounted to over $1.3 million with the major beneficiaries being sporting clubs, community groups and businesses. These decisions were taken in March and again into early May.

The following are some examples.

• No additional interest on outstanding rates until further notice

• Lease fee refunds for eligible sporting and community groups

• Established Rose's Angels to support isolated and vulnerable community members

• Existing business licences extended until June 30, 2021

• All environmentally relevant authorities extended for a further 12 months

• Rent relief for council's commercial tenants from April 1, 2020 for an initial three months

• We have recently announced a one-off rapid response grant program to assist financially impacted community organisations

• Continuing support and refocusing of ASBAS business training through webinars

• Established a COVID information portal on council's website

• Established a local business directory on council's website to support local in-kind support for the business community from Advance Rockhampton

• Cash contribution of $20,000 each for two local animal welfare agencies

• We have a digital business capability program to provide direct practical support to local businesses.

Advance Rockhampton has been promoting small businesses and doing video clips and advertising on our own social media platforms.

The Smart Hub has stepped up with a wide range of training to assist small businesses to be online savvy.

Of course, as owners of the regional airport, we have taken a major hit to our bottom line as well.

P.S. Councillors had already agreed that we will freeze our own pay. We did that some weeks ago. This is in line with steps taken by politicians at other levels of government.