The high cost of local Council rates and other charges is concerning many in Redland City but one group is getting very frustrated. Home owners at Raby Bay in Cleveland are fed up with above average rate rises and huge levies for canal repairs.
The Raby Bay Ratepayers’ Association is saying that their members just want to be treated fairly, get value for money and have Council make decisions transparently. In the face of no response from the Redland City Council, the Association recently took their members’ plight to the ABC Televsion and 7:30 Queensland. The resulting investigation by ABC journalist Kathy Mcleish led to a story which aired on 11 July 2014 titled “Residents plead for relief from rates hikes” .
In brief, the Raby Bay Ratepayers’ Association says a series of reports, commissioned by the Redland City Council over the years, detail on-going and costly problems with the faulty construction of the canal walls.
The 7:30 Report included comments by a Council representative arguing that when the canal estate was designed it was to the best engineering standards (at that time). Council was also reported to acknowledge that structural failures are due to the lands being tidal and so “there will be failures from time to time” and further asserts “it’s not a failure of engineering standards or anything it’s just one of those things that occurs over time”.
So the best practice engineering standards applied at Raby Bay seem to have resulted in massive costs for residents. Residents rightly ask: What happened?
The developer had paid for repairs to canal walls only until 1995 according to a 1999 Council Report . The Council then assumed responsibility for the ‘public’ part of the waterways from the concrete headwalls into the canals and took a bond of $1.5 million from the developer to pay for any future repairs.
It seems that by 1998, the total cost of repair work had exceeded the value of the bond but further work still had to be done. Local residents say that Council, instead of accepting its financial responsibility, has forced property owners to fund the rising bill for what many believe to be a failure of the Council to adequately supervise the original design and construction of the canal works. In addition Council did not properly assess the ongoing costs of maintenance and repairs.
Concerns about rates?
The original ‘canal charge’ on each property appears to have started at about $100 a year. This year it will be almost $2,200 a year. Council predicts that costs will reach be more than $4,000 a year in less than a decade.
These high ‘canal charges’ come on top of huge increases in General Rates. In the last two years, Raby Bay General Rates have increased over $1,400 per year. The Raby Bay Ratepayers’ Association is not aware of any comparable residential properties in Australia that pay such high General Rates and Charges.
Council maintains it is working with the Raby Bay Ratepayers’ Association and engineering firms to find the cheapest way to do this work cost effectively moving forward so it is a collaboration of a range of experts as well as the community. Not unreasonably the Ratepayers’ Association wants Council to collaborate more closely on how the money is spent, given that its members are footing the bills.
Also of concern to Raby Bay homeowners is a Council Report which found the repair bill could be cut from as much as $30,000 a metre to just $1,000 a metre by fixing the banks before they slipped. The technical and engineering solutions are probably both complex and costly but Raby Bay residents feel they are being shunned by Council officers and the Mayor. Recently, Council’s response to the Association’s correspondence appears to have ‘dried up”.
The Ratepayers’ Association now feel they are faced with a wall of silence and are concerned that Council seems to have a record of withholding technical advices from the community. This seems to mirror the Council’s approach when the community sought the release of technical reports underpinning the proposed development scheme for both Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek Priority Development Areas (or PDA’s) . Different issues ..yes! but the process failures by both the Mayor and senior officers is seemingly the same.
It is a feeling other community groups know full well. Is there need for a unifying community voice, one that can hold the Council to account?