The funding agreement for ferry operations to the southern Moreton Bay island (SMBI) was on the agenda for Redland City Council’s meeting on 12 August 2015.
Two representatives of island residents (Mr Clem Ebber and Mr Robin Harris) attended the Council meeting and addressed the Council during the public participation section of its meeting. They can be heard on the Council’s audio recording of the meeting. Robin Harris starts at 9:45 minutes and Clem Ebber starts at 19:45 minutes.
Of particular concern was the current Translink levy that SMBI property owners are required to pay. This levy was introduced in 2013 with Mayor Karen Williams saying:
Robin Harris pointed out to the Council that island property values have fallen by about 50% over the past five years.
This ferry funding agreement was to be discussed in closed session. with no media or members of the public allowed to attend. Council decided to defer a decision on the matter pending further discussions according to this report by the Redland City Bulletin.
The text of Clem Ebber’s address to Council is reproduced below with the kind permission of Mr Ebber.
Report by Redlands2030 – 13 August 2015
Clem Ebber talks about the SMBI Translink levy
It is now about one year ago, when you accepted Cr Edward’s request to ask the State Government to amend the SEQ Infrastructure and Program to consider a road/bridge link from the Southern Moreton Bay Islands (SMBI) and the Mainland.
As chairperson of the Moreton Bay Combined islands Association I wish to address the Translink levy of $88/year designed as a TRIAL until 31 December 2015.
SMBI property owners regard this levy as unfair, because it is NOT imposed on mainland ratepayers, although they are using the same Translink system.
It’s just a few days ago that a delegation of the SMBI forum have discussed transport and other issues with the Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure and her two Director Generals.
We urged her inter alia to abolish the Translink levy altogether. We pointed out that in our view the levy is unfair and discriminatory, as SMBI ratepayers are paying much higher rates than their mainland counterparts.
According to the latest Dropping of the Edge report, DOTE 2015, SMBI’s population is, together with Palm Island, in view of socio-economic ranking, being regarded as Queensland’s most disadvantaged community.
From the fact that according to today’s Agenda section 16.1 Infrastructure & Operations, subsection 16.1.1 Funding Agreement for
Ferry Operations to SMBI, the Public, in particular ratepayers of SMBI are excluded, it appears that a new Translink deal, the continuation of he aforementioned levy, has been negotiated with the Department of Transport and is a foregone conclusion.
That Council did not see fit to consult SMBI ratepayers, speaks for itself.
In addition to the discriminatory Translink levy of $88, the existing Translink/ Bay Islands Transit (BITS) ferry system is no longer working and cannot cope with the ever-increasing demand. Commuters are being left behind, because the ferries are totally overcrowded in peak hours.
That is why we have invited the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad to see for herself, how bad the situation is on the SMBI Islands. She has promised to visit the islands in the coming spring.
Running more ferries at shorter intervals is resulting in BITS having to acquire at least double the amount of ferries they are currently running, which inevitably will result in much higher fares. Not only will more ferries put a huge strain on all existing embarking and disembarking facilities on the islands and on the mainland, more ferries will also destroy our unique marine environment and increase the danger to marine wildlife.
The ancient vehicular ferries are totally outdated and need to be replaced rather sooner than later. They are only running infrequently and have limited space. Therefore, spaces are often not available, when SMBI residents need to travel to the mainland unexpectedly. In addition, not all barges serve all islands. Karragarra and Lamb Islands are served four times a day less than Russell and Macleay Islands.
Fares are already now exorbitant and prohibitive for SMBI residents and mainland residents alike. Freight costs to SMBI are excessive resulting in exceptionally high prices for all aspects of life. Ferry and barge companies, that are BITS and Stradbroke Ferries are one and the same company enjoying a monopoly, despite their different names. Stradbroke Ferries are not regulated and they are charging SMBI residents at their will. During the last 13 years, SMBI residents encountered a price hike for the barges of 243 percent, while the national inflation rate did not exceed 42.1 percent during the same time.
Water-based Transport as the main means to and from the Islands is no longer an option. The current transportation system is totally out of date and can not cope with the future demand. Water based transport is no longer an option in the long term or even
in the medium term.
Visitors have to drive around for more than half an hour at Weinam Creek to find a parking spot, distances away from the ferry terminal. Ferry passengers are slashed with exorbitant fines when they return and happen to overstay their parking time for no fault of their own, but for the lack of adequate parking.
We can only hope, that revised PDA scheme for Weinam Creek all provide significant more spaces than provided in the current scheme. The new PDA development at Weinam Creek might transform the area into a world class waterfront precinct, as the Mayor announced recently, but Weinam Creek will continue to be the gateway to SMBI with their third world conditions, as stated in the Dropping of the Edge report DOTE 2015.
If Transport and Infrastructure on SMBI are not improved rather sooner than later, the islands are going to deteriorate even further, while SMBI property owners are being hit with ever increasing charges.
In view of section 16.1 and subsection 16.1.1 of today’s Agenda, I ask you all to discontinue the Translink levy of 88 dollars when the trial expires on 31 December 2015. They suffer already enough.
I implore you to not discuss this important Translink levy issue in a closed session as stated in the agenda.
We the ratepayers of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands deserve to be treated the same. way as our fellow mainland citizens.
Clem Ebber – 12 August 2015