A view from Macleay Island by Robin Harris

A vehicle barge servicing the Southern Moreton Bay Islands (SMBI)

A vehicle barge servicing the Southern Moreton Bay Islands (SMBI)

Concerns of residents on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands (SMBI) were raised by Robin Harris at the Redland City Council meeting on 17 February 2016.

Mr Harris is a resident of Macleay Island. His speech can be viewed by selecting Item 7 Public Participation from the agenda on the webpage for the meeting’s video recording.

Mr Harris has kindly provided a transcript of his speech for publication by Redlands2030. Various interjections by the Mayor and an intervention by Cr Ogilvie are noted and where appropriate Mr Harris corrects the record.

Concerns of a SMBI resident

As a SMBI Islander I am passionate about achieving the planning and investment that is so desperately needed to make the future of the Islands vibrant and creative.

As an Islander I have seen three full, four year, Council terms:-

  • Seccombe era – phrases like ‘there’s no silver bullet for SMBI’ and ‘too hard basket’ come to mind.
  • Hobson era – heaps of community input and good planning but largely missing the boat on outcomes for SMBI, except for some significant road and community building.
  • Current (Williams) era – here we see a huge emphasis on centralised control of council by a small team. A significant reduction to Community access to meetings.  A concentration of power at the most senior executive and political levels, which, for instance allows the CEO to prioritise which, quite major, capital schemes go ahead in who’s area and which don’t, without reference to Council.

( Note: the Mayor interjected at this point in the presentation saying I was not correct and asked me to withdraw the statement, which I did. I now have the minute to hand – 22nd April 2015 minute 11.2.1 Financial delegations for CEO.  I quote ‘ The CEO be given delegated authority to approve budget adjustments to projects as required. This delegation would not only allow the CEO to approve adjustments to a particular project but would allow the CEO to approve adjustments between projects or bring projects forward from the next financial year’s program where a project ( or projects ) from the current year’s program is unable to be delivered either in part or in full.’)

Relevant divisional and portfolio councillors need only to be ‘updated’ where a change is above $40,000. It seems to me that once the capital and operational budgets are set by the full Council, the CEO has full authority to tinker with priorities as dictated by circumstances without having to seek further full Council approval, unless the overall annual budget expenditure is exceeded when he only has to seek retrospective ratification!

At the very least this is not a fully transparent process!! In my view it is too open to manipulation.

SMBI’s needs

Translink ferry

Translink ticketing on passenger ferries was supposed to improve property values

SMBI has seen the advent of Translink ticketing on the passenger ferries. The Council agreement was supposed to improve property values and Island prosperity – but ferry fares were set too high, property values have decreased by 40% in 5 years. We’re equated with the socio-economic levels of Palm Island.

In addition to these indignities more than M$5.0 will be taken from SMBI ratepayers and the Island economy over the five and a half year period of the agreement.

SMBI has benefited from the ‘green road’ program – a program which will need the input of some M$1.0 to M$1.5 each year for the foreseeable future for initial construction then ongoing maintenance.

Russell Island has benefited, (with the aid of Government funding) from Sports and Emergency facilities.

Rates on SMBI are relatively high. We were promised a rating review but have heard nothing further.

Car parking at Weinam Creek

We still await solutions for Weinam Creek where “cars litter every possible corner of the area”

After well over ten years we still await solutions for Weinam Creek – this is where cars litter every possible corner of the area. We still await resolution of parking problems on Russell Island. The Macleay Island Jetty area improvements are delayed yet again and will not be started till next year perhaps. Some Island cynics consider that the delay to this M$9.0 scheme have been engineered to ensure the Council’s budget position looks good!

Four years ago a Council resolution was passed to start investigating alternative vehicle barge options. Nothing has been done. There is still no on-Island transport.

During the last election the previous Council administration came under very heavy criticism for excessive debt (about M$60 I think) and high rate rises. This Council has kept rate rises modest but, for instance, reserves of several millions have been closed and transferred. The City’s water profits have also been criticised as excessive and have presumably propped up rating finances.

The SMBI reserve (collected from Islanders and reserved purely for SMBI capital construction) of nearly M$5.0 was used to pay off debt instead of being invested in SMBI infrastructure.

( Note: Again the Mayor interjected saying this was legitimate as the loan was for SMBI infrastructure. My point is that there is need for SMBI investment now! Council could have simply extended a loan to cover M$5.0 SMBI work this could have seen the surfacing of around 35 kilometres of roads, half our outstanding need. Instead, this Council chose to reduce it’s debt!! )

With just a modest 10% ( or around M$6.0) reduction in debt, Council now boasts it has one of the lowest debt levels in Queensland and proposes lending mega-millions to the State to improve our roads – what sort of legacy is this for the Redlands.

(Note: The Mayor interjected once again saying this was incorrect.  Yet the Redland City Bulletin quotes her as saying ‘the loan would fast-track upgrades at State road ‘pinch points’. At this point Councillor Ogilvie reminded the Mayor that the standing orders she referred to at the commencement of the public session forbade debate.)

Infrastructure deficits

Redlands is a seaside dormitory suburb, which should be bursting with sport, recreational and water access facilities like its Northern counterparts, but it has been admitted by senior Councillors that the City has a huge deficit in this type of infrastructure, this is of course very apparent to us in the community  when we compare ourselves other Council areas.

There is ample scope for forecast population increases within the current infrastructure and planning boundary limits.  Yet a slim majority at Council approves the huge Shoreline project on the Southern limits of the City. The transport and other infrastructure needs will likely put Council financing at considerable risk and cause detriment to existing residents.

Now (and in addition) there is a planned 10,000 person development at Toondah and another of unknown size at Weinam Creek.  The SMB Islands will take another 15,000 people. These developments bring a huge capital and social investment demand.

There is no joined-up strategic planning for all this.  Not only that, but we now learn (from the Redlands Bulletin 17th February) that State government’s population targets for Redlands have been REDUCED by nearly 30% or 18,000 )

The decisions made by this Council together with the substantially residential nature of the City and relative lack of rate income create fundamental fears and challenges for the Redlands into the future. It does not surprise me that Council is now on its’ 4th finance department manager!

Simply building houses is no substitute for growing commerce and industry or, say, the relocation of major inner city State Government departments.

It’s no good Council continuing to fudge the way ahead as it has this term.

The way ahead for SMBI

Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull

We have to have real vision instead of meaningless slogans and spin.

To quote Malcolm Turnbull:-

‘We need a different style of leadership. We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities, explains the challenges and how to seize the opportunities. A style of leadership that respects the peoples intelligence, that explains these complex issues, and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take, and make the case for it.

We need advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.

Written by Robin Harris
Macleay Island


Published by Redlands2030 – 24 February 2016

Please note: Offensive or off-topic comments will be deleted. If offended by any published comment please email thereporter@redlands2030.net

7 thoughts on “A view from Macleay Island by Robin Harris

  1. The glowing reports of the Melva era island fiasco that enabled reports to filter through council via some SMBICAC members , a handpicked and council muzzled team used by council to control information residents /ratepayers , will no doubt have fond memories of those times . Those that lost that sense of control once the Williams team was elected ,saw those influences reduced and a sense of the old guard diminished. The so called benefits of those 4yrs of the Melva council need to be named as ratepayers had a rates grab of historical proportions inflicted on them some 205% rates rises in those years with no infrastructure forth coming . This was the most expensive rates in Australia per land value and with it the complete council engineered collapse of the SMBI . With the dubious so called community building AKA ‘control of island community ” we heard that the SMBI was being taxed above and beyond that of any other Redlands suburb of which had enjoyed our island rates for some 40 years but especially the deal struck council and the state between 1993 to with hold all SMBI infrastructure and only marine infrastructure via the state be forth coming . Arrogant and dismissive attitudes of both the then council and it’s handpicked island representatives became the SMBI’s greatest let down ….’You chose to live there’ , desperate tent embassy’s and petitions with 6500 signatures were ignored and residents and ratepayers remained locked out of all community feed back ….’Have your say ‘community days that saw the angst of those wanting a Bridge on Russell with over 84% stickers were ignored with comments like’then just don’t understand what they are suppose to be talking about ‘ the letter pleading with council regards parking and long sad lists from pensioners and mum and Pop retirees about the discrimination of rates and the financial bullying of ratepayers fell not only on deaf ears but were infact treated with contempt …… The fond memories of those that were part of the inner circle of Melva’s council are not reflected by those ratepayers and residents and that is why that council was turfed out in a land slide by the islands voting the highest % in Redlands to remove Melva as mayor and the councillor responsible for the dreadful demise of property values and lifestyle ….we did indeed need a change in governance and this was reflected then and the thought of reinstating that regime again for another chance to victimise the islands and their ratepayers is being resisted strongly

    • Sam Delawarr is by all her articles in many social media pages promoting the virtues of the Williams led team is commendable to blindly follow a personal belief but she sadly lacks any substance or solid evidence in any of her comments or articles. The facts that are indisputable and accessible by anyone wanting to compare the financial evidence as it can be found easily under Redland City Council Annual Reports for each financial year dateing back many years if you are interested. These documents give SMBI spending by all councils, but since Sam is referring to the previous Hobson administration then comparing to the Williams team the following is for all to digest and understand. Redland City Council direct spending on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands as per Mr Robin Harris s address is as following : 2009/10 annual SMBI spend by the Hobson led council was $4,743,694, same administration 2010/11 annual SMBI spend $3,824,650 and final financial SMBI spend by the Hobson council was 2011/12 financial year SMBI was $3,244,934. The we have the Williams administration with the same SMBI spend but reduced to $2,493,960 during 2012/13, then down to $1,634,933 in 2013/14 with no spending recorded at all in the annual report for 2014/15. How any resident or owner on any of the SMB Islands can feel they are better off under the Williams led council is hard for any logically thinking person to agree with.
      You can hear in the audio visual recording of Robin Harris that Mayor Williams admits she has used the additional SMBI infrastructure loading on SMBI rates to reduce council dept instead of spending it on vital desperately needed SMBI infrastructure, I don’t know what else needs to be given to Sam Delawarr for her to deliver an accurate truthful report instead of the spin she presents.

  2. Well said Robin Harris and a big thankyou for highlighting some of our issues.
    There are so many problems on Macleay Island and the situation is only compounding because of all three levels of government inaction. Council does not police its own rules. Council must think about spending money wisely and provide basic necessities, like a better transport system to the mainland, seal and drain our roads (If Council has so much money to spare, why can’t the roads on Macleay be fixed), provide a recreational all tide boat ramp in a safe non commercial area.
    What do we get for our dollar? In my opinion very little.
    We should not have to rely on the police to totally enforce the law – Council should be helping by raising the living standards on Macleay Island to set an example!

    • minutes dated 17 June 2008, Responsible officer Acting CEO Greg Underwood …FM corporate Budget …….councillors determined that funds raised for 2008/2009 budget should be increased by 100% for the SMBI only …..moved cr Bowler seconded Cr Reimers ……..the remaining budget included Raby Bay, Aquatic Paradise and Sovereign Waters rises of between 7 %and 13% on just their levies growth noted at 0.8%plus rates rises across the city of the average 5.2% land fill and tip fees up 6.7% and water charges up 30% …so Peter Hanson …there are the facts ,not nit picked but straight from the start of that dreadful era and they increased dramatically over that 4 year period until Smbi was 205% higher and the canal estates also being targeted . But then along came the Williams team and in July 2012 FM coeporate budget responsible officer Martin drysdale presented By Cr Talty that a 30% cap will be applied to categories identified as 3a-3b ,4a-4b and 12a-12b of the SMBI ratings categories …(.That’s your land as well Peter Hanson)The same applied to those being financial abused on the canal estates as well ….all increases were kept to the CPI across the city …. moved Cr Beard seconded Cr M Edwards overall report had 2 that did not want those community savings and a new era of sustainable council attitudes…those against Crs Ogilvie and Elliot ….so Peter before you try to discredit people that have those genuine facts maybe the information being feed to yáll might be nit picked or filtered to try and glorify ,the memory of Financial bullying and arrogant control over the city of Redlands that we all suffered .

  3. A very well researched and conveyed article that should be read and understood by all critics of the plight SMBI people live with every day of their lives.
    Thank you Robin Harris.

    • Sam Delawarr is by her response above endorsing the facts on the SMBI spending I have been presenting on this and many other public forums for a very long time. yes I agree with you Sam Delawarr, the councilors you mentioned did vote in the rate increases for SMBI infrastructure spending only. They voted this in and they spent all the funds raised directly and only on the SMBI for the term of the Hobson council as promised. This infrastructure spending was dramatically reduced by the next Williams led council but the same high rate charges remain to this day with much of the SMBI rates spent on council debt reduction.
      Most SMBI ratepayers should see this as the retrograde step by council that it surely is, leaving islanders to languish with substandard or non existent infrastructure they are surely still paying heavily for.

  4. Well said Robyn Harris.
    Not only are We are still paying the translink levy it has gone up !!! I believe both barge and ferry prices are way too high ,
    Mayor K Williams you dont think you will be getting my vote I realy don’t know who to vote for these days !!! What a joke you are !!!

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