This is my ninth annual budget as Mayor of the Isaac Regional Council, or I R C . Because of the uncertainties created by COVID-19, it has been one of the most difficult.
This is a year when I R C must also stand for Innovative, Responsive and Compassionate leadership.
Our region builds, powers and feeds the world, and we recognise the unprecedented pace of change across the globe. We will continue to embrace innovation in everything we do.
We are also responsive to the changing needs of our communities. Our budget plans for the 2020-21 year reflect the priorities expressed to us by families, farmers, small business operators and other ratepayers throughout the region. While the Isaac Region has been fortunate to avoid the direct health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, no community in Australia has escaped the economic impacts.
It is a time when we must all be compassionate towards one another, and one way Council can demonstrate compassion now is to put the brakes on cost increases.
Council has taken a frugal approach to budget preparation. If water purchases and expenses associated with recoverable works are excluded, there has been a decrease of 4 per cent in budgeted expenditure for purchasing external materials and services.
At the same time, Council has ensured that budgeting decisions made have not impacted on the long-term sustainability of Council and ongoing provision of services.
Prudent financial management has allowed Council to ease cost-of-living pressures on our residents in the coming year – and I will talk more about that shortly – while maintaining a capital works program more than matching last year’s. The 2020-21 capital works program totals $54.9 million.
This investment will maintain critical infrastructure, boost economic activity, and support active and attractive communities across the Isaac Region.
The 2020-21 capital works program includes:
- $28.3 million for roads and drainage;
- $5.9 million for water;
- $4.1 million for wastewater;
- $5.2 million for waste management;
- $5.8 million for Council properties, plant, fleet and workshops;
- $708,000 for services and support;
- $1.7 million for parks and recreation; and
- $3.2 million for community facilities.
Improving the quality and reliability of water supply in Clermont remains one of Council’s top priorities. Well over three-quarters of Council’s total budget spend on water projects – almost $4.9 million from the total $5.9 million – will go to Clermont.
As part of Clermont’s Water Quality Response Plan, to improve the quality of the town’s drinking water, $1.39 million has been allocated for a water mains replacement program, $1 million for de-silting the area around the raw water offtake structure at Theresa Creek Dam and $2.4 million to finish Clermont’s five-megalitre treated water reservoir.
Roads will once again make up the largest commitment of funds from the Isaac Regional Council. Isaac has an extensive road network that connects our people and helps pave the way to economic prosperity in the future.
Council continues to take a very strong view that road infrastructure and maintenance represent a core service with a massive impact on safety, travel time, flood access, freight and business throughout our region.
Of the $28 million allocated for roads and drainage, major components include $12.1 million for restoration works for damage due to Ex-Cyclone Trevor in 2019, under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, a $4.1 million rural re-sheeting program, a $1.9 million rural rehabilitation program, a $1.6 million region-wide surfacing renewal program, a $900,000 natural disaster resilience floodway construction program, and a $490,000 rural drainage renewal program.
Specific projects include upgrading of the Moranbah Access Road Quarrico Intersection to improve safety, visibility and road conditions. This project will cost $1,446,500 and is funded through the Australian Government’s Black Spot Program, which aims to reduce high-risk crash zones. The Dysart side of Saraji Road will receive a $1,580,000 pavement rehabilitation, jointly funded through the Queensland Government’s Transport Infrastructure Development Scheme.
This year, $5.2 million will be committed to waste management and $4.1 million for wastewater.
A large individual project involves improvements to stormwater management and rehabilitating Stage One of Moranbah’s landfill to improve compliance with the Environmental Protection Act to ensure waste is managed sustainably and responsibly. This will cost more than $4.2 million. In Clermont, another $650,000 will be spent on landfill stormwater management to improve compliance with the Environmental Protection Act and, again, ensure waste is managed sustainably and responsibly.
Enhancing the “liveability” of our region is very important to our Council.
It is well known we want as many as possible
of the people who work in Isaac to live in Isaac, and providing sport and recreation facilities and other amenities plays a significant role in making that an attractive option.
A total of $4.9 million will be invested in enhancing the liveability if Isaac in 2020-21. This budget includes $3.2 million for community facilities, and $1.7 million for parks and recreation across the region.
Spending will include:
- $370,000 for LED lighting at the Aussie Rules field in Moranbah so teams can safely train and play at night;
- a $440,000 refurbishment at the Nebo Aquatic Centre and $250,000 for an additional amenities block at the Nebo Showgrounds;
- $586,000 for the cycle network program across the region – and $244,000 of that will be spent creating safer, more enjoyable cycling paths around Clermont;
- $315,000 for a new multi-facility amenities block at Clermont’s netball courts;
- over $320,000 in Dysart to complete works at the Dysart Pool, create a welcoming entry statement and a makeover for the Dysart Recreation Centre;
- more than $210,000 in work at Glenden’s Lions Park and the aquatic centre; and
- Middlemount’s tennis courts will receive a lighting and switchboard upgrade for $88,000, the St Lawrence recreation grounds will see $35,000 spent, and community halls at Flaggy Rock, Ilbilbie and Carmila will all undergo painting and repairs for $97,000.
Our spending on “liveability” assets recognises the importance of helping residents achieve
an appropriate work-life balance. People come to the Isaac for an opportunity and discover reasons to stay, and one of those reasons is our commitment to maintaining active and attractive communities from the coast to the coalfields. We continue to invest in those places and spaces which provide a venue for our communities to gather and enjoy the fantastic lifestyle we have to offer.
Our capital works program for the year ahead clearly demonstrates that we are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges today.
At the same time, as I have said, this is a time for innovative, responsive and compassionate leadership
So, while maintaining a capital works program more than matching last year’s, prudent financial management has also allowed Council to ease cost-of-living pressures on our residents in the coming year.
Rates and levies for our families and other domestic ratepayers in 2020-21 have been frozen at last year’s levels.
With the exception of a small rise in the charge for the highest-level water usage – and the continuing move towards price parity for water infrastructure charges across our communities – domestic rates and charges have not been increased.
All Councillors agreed that the total amount collected for Council use from rates and levies from our families and other domestic ratepayers should basically be frozen. There will be a general rates increase for large businesses in the Isaac Region, such as mining enterprises. For big business, the rates rise will be 2.5 per cent, close to previously foreshadowed rates increases and only marginally above the national CPI for March 2020 of 2.2 per cent. Those same businesses that have large property portfolios will, however, benefit substantially from the zero per cent increase for those properties.
Under its long-term financial forecast, Council has committed to keeping increases to general rates for domestic ratepayers at no more than 2 per cent a year. The bottom line is that Council has worked hard to achieve a budget that is sustainable and responsible, taking into account current economic conditions, including the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
Council has constrained increases in total rates revenue to 2 per cent, in line with previous adopted long-term financial forecasts, while also taking into account sectors of the economy which have been more impacted than others. The 2020-21 budget continues Council’s commitment to sustainable and prudent financial management. Council’s fiscal position is independently assessed by the Queensland Audit Office and the Queensland Treasury Corporation, and we continue to achieve sound financial sustainability. Isaac is a region of innovators and game-changers, renowned for our hard work and resilience. As a region, we will need all those qualities to navigate through the difficult economic times ahead.
This is the first budget of the new four-year term for the Isaac Regional Council following the local government elections in March.
I want to particularly acknowledge the contribution of my fellow Councillors and our staff in framing this budget.
With the passionate, dedicated and skilful Councillors and staff serving the Isaac Region, and our proud, hard-working mining and farming families and businesses, I am confident our communities will not just survive the current challenges, but thrive. We are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges today.
As Mayor, I remain enormously proud of the role Isaac communities play in building, powering and feeding communities across the globe and in powering the Queensland and Australian economies.