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 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.
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.)
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
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