Is our Council attempting to rewrite history to justify where it finds itself today?
We have revealed a number of issues this year, focussing on the Council’s current trifecta of bloated staffing levels, unrealistic capital programs and huge rate increases. And we have made suggestions to correct the course.
The Five Stages Of Grief suggest that before we arrive at acceptance, we start with denial. That seems to be where some in Council are now.
Recent public comments seem to suggest the reason for the trifecta of failures is down to Noosa Council not spending enough 8 years ago after de-amalgamation. Really?
The Mayor recently advised Noosa residents that ‘we have also been working with the new CEO to correct systemic long-term issues within council operations that are the result of austerity measures implemented at de-amalgamation’.
Austerity measures are generally defined as ‘economic policies implemented by a government to reduce government spending and public debt, primarily implemented when a government is about to default on its debt’.
The new Noosa Council had no austerity policy in 2014, partly because rates had risen in real terms during amalgamation.
That’s because Noosa had the lowest rate levels of the three Sunshine Coast Councils before amalgamation in 2008. Noosa rates were then ‘normalised’ by the regional council to match the higher levels in the former Maroochy Shire.
Before amalgamation, Noosa’s service levels were the highest on the Sunshine Coast. After amalgamation, levels of service were progressively lowered until ‘enough people complained’, and the lower level became the adopted level.
For example, Noosa’s normal level of service for maintenance of gravel roads was to grade them twice a year. The regional council changed that to once a year.
Some services were dumped by the Regional Council. A notable one was Noosa’s annual kerbside rubbish pickup because “it would cost too much to expand the service to all of the Sunshine Coast”.
A major ongoing criticism by Noosa residents after amalgamation was that maintenance levels of all public areas were reduced, the savings being spent on works ‘south of the border’. Or on ‘big ticket’ items like the purchase of Horton Park golf course in Maroochydore for $40 million.
That all ended on de-amalgamation day, 1 January 2014. The new Noosa Council was able to reinstate dumped services as well as higher pre-amalgamation levels of service with the first budget.
Nor was there a debt problem. Councils are required to keep their Net Financial Liabilities Ratio below 60%. At 30 June 2014, Noosa Council’s ratio was half that at 32%. (For comparison, the last reported ratio of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council was 54%)
Unfortunately the reinstated annual kerbside pickup was dropped by the current Noosa Council two years ago ‘because of Covid’. At an annual cost of $250,000, it was far better value to the community than many of the recent Council ‘initiatives’. It could have been reinstated last year with a small fraction of the huge rate increase that saw $4 million of cash unused at the end of the year.
The facts show that there was no Council austerity after de-amalgamation. The community was enjoying the return of higher service standards even without any rate increases in the first two Noosa budgets. This was possible because all Noosa rates were then being spent here in Noosa Shire.
Finally, if the current systemic issues in the Council organisation were caused by a previous lack of funds, why hasn’t the unprecedented rate revenue increase from $69 million to $82.5 million over two years solved the problem?
The current elected members have had over two years in charge.
We urge you to get the basics right instead of splurging on feel-good new initiatives.
After massive rate and staffing increases,let’s drop the excuses and the rewriting of history.
Let’s get the really simple stuff done; like enforcing Local STA Laws, protecting our public reserves from encroachment, bringing back our kerbside clean-up and emptying the bins in our highest profile street.