Noosa mayor de-amalgamation costings proved correct

THE single-biggest argument against Noosa's de-amalgamation has been debunked in the latest Queensland Audit Office report into local government.

Before last year's referendum Noosa ratepayers were hammered with statements from Local Government Minister David Crisafuli and Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamieson that the exercise would cost more than $13million.

De-amalgamation spokesman Noel Playford, now Noosa mayor, argued initially the real number was $2m, later shifting that prediction to under $5m.

The Queensland Audit Office has put the true number at December 31 last year at $2.23m with $1.5m to come in Information Communication and Technology costs.

Ahead of last year's vote Mr Crisafuli supported the right of Noosa residents to determine their future but at every turn warned them it would cost $13,651,000 or around $260 on every rate notice.

"That's a lot of money for people who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet,'' Mr Crisafuli said.

"As I've said all along, I won't tell people how to vote, but I do have a responsibility to make sure people know how much it will cost them to de-amalgamate."

Taking up the theme Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamieson who campaigned heavily against a split said Mr Crisafuli had described the QTC numbers as "gospel".

"There is no doubt whatsoever now what the mums and dads of Noosa and district will have to pay hundreds of dollars more every year in rates," Mayor Jamieson said.

"The Queensland Treasury Corporation says the rates increase will be $260 in the first year, and $142 for the following four years - that's a minimum."

The Queensland Audit Office report released this week has come to a very different conclusion.

It has put the cost of all four de-amalgamations across Queensland at $13,388,630 well below the QTC estimate of $29,206,000.

Mr Playford has declined to point the finger at Queensland Treasury Corporation.

However in a pointed response he made clear where he thought the blame lay.

"It (QTC) was given a brief,'' Mr Playford said.

"They weren't free to an assessment as they might have. With particular instructions it made it difficult for them.

"ICT cost calculations didn't have the necessary local government expertise.

"They engaged KPMG. There may have been different results (in the cost estimations) if experts in smaller council IT systems were engaged.

"It was also a hard ask for all of us to make estimates based on assumptions.

"The QTC had to make those. I was really pleased we weren't too far off the mark.

The Queensland Audit Office report gave Noosa a moderate (neutral) financial ranking which Mr Playford expects to improve by the next council election in 2016.

"I would expect a significant improvement in our financial position by then,'' he said. "If a council is not financially sustainable it can't deliver services."

The QTC also estimated annual incremental costs of $2.6m, a figure that is still to be tested.

 

BIOSPHERE SAFE

Mr Playford has also confirmed that Noosa Biosphere Ltd would continue with council funding.

The Queensland Audit Office had noted uncertainty about its ability to continue as a going concern because of doubt about future funding arrangements.

"Noosa Biosphere had accumulated funds as at December 31 to maintain its expenditure to June 30,'' Mr Playford said.

"We are close to finishing a review of its arrangements with council.

"There is a working party including myself and three councillors. We have invited submissions, consulted and will give a presentation in about a fortnight.

"We will report to council with a proposal that will be taken to a community meeting before a final vote at a council meeting on May 1for a decision on future arrangements.

"Noosa Council will fund the future arrangements."


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