Comparison of Rates and Charges in Southeast Queensland

Houses in Capalaba – Image: Google Earth

For some years, Redlands2030 has been doing a comparison of rates and charges for typical homeowners in southeast Queensland local government areas. We do this to find out who gets “more for less” and who pays the highest rates and charges.

Local council rates and charges, including water utility service charges, can exceed $4,000 per year for typical homeowners in some southeast Queensland local government areas. But homeowners in other local government areas pay much less.

To do an apples-with-apples comparison, there’s a lot of detail to be considered.

Homeowners must pay general rates and other local council charges including charges for kerbside waste collection.

There are charges for water and wastewater services. In some local government areas these services are provided by the local council and included with the local council’s rates bill. In other local government areas, these services are billed separately by utility companies which are jointly owned by multiple local councils.

Local council rates notices also include some charges set by the State Government.

With all of these details, we can produce an overall comparison of rates and charges for residential homeowners in southeast Queensland. Here’s our 2023/24 comparison.

Comparison of Rates and Charges in Southeast Queensland for the 2023/24 financial year.
Comparison of rates and charges in southeast Queensland for the 2023/24 financial year.

Presented below are comments on our assumptions, methods and sources of information.

General rates

Local councils impose general rates on property owners based on land values which are determined and published by the State Government’s Valuer-General.

A simplistic approach to comparing general rates across councils  would be to use the minimum general rates imposed by each local council. But such analysis is biased to the lower end of the property market in each local government area. Some councils impose minimum general rates on a greater proportion of residential properties than other councils. So, the comparison of rates and charges using minimum rates is not helpful if we want to know what typical middling homeowners have to pay. Instead, we prefer to use median land values for comparison.

The Valuer-General publishes median values for all residential land in each local government area. The median value is the value that sits in the middle of a range with as many properties valued above it as below it. Median values are used in property market analysis (instead of average values) because median values are not distorted by a few very high-value properties.

The Valuer-General does not update property values in each local government area every year. The table below shows the latest published median values for residential land in each local government area, under the financial year when these land values are to be used by local councils for rates setting for the first time.

Gold Coast$610,000
Lockyer Valley$165,000
Moreton Bay$415,000
Scenic Rim$235,000
Sunshine Coast$450,000
Median values of residential land in each local government area as published by the Valuer-General

Median land values can differ significantly from one  local government area to another. And the Valuer-General’s land valuations may not align with current property values indicated by the real estate market. But we can expect that in each local government area, the general rates imposed on a property with the median land value is a reasonable indicator of what that local government area’s typical or middling ratepayers are paying in general rates.

We use the median residential land value for each local government area as the starting point for comparing the general rates imposed by each local council. Most councils have a general rate category for owner occupiers and this is what we use. After calculating the general rates for a notional property with median land value, we compare this amount with the minimum general rates set by the local council, and use the figure which is higher.

To smooth out the effects of large changes in official land values, some local councils levy general rates on the average of land values over multiple years. If a local council does this, we use the averaging multipliers that they publish in their budget documents.

Other  Council charges

In addition to general rates, local councils can impose other charges either on all ratepayers or on particular classes of ratepayers.

We examine each local council’s budget documents and identify all the additional charges which are levied on all residential ratepayers. These extra charges are included in our comparison.

Waste management

Comparison of rates and charges
Red-lid and yellow lid wheelie bins

Collection of general waste weekly in a red-lid wheelie bin and items for recycling fortnightly in a yellow-lid wheelie bin is a standard level of service across southeast Queensland. For the purpose of comparison, we standardize on use of a 240-litre general waste bin (red lid) and a 240-litre recycling bin (yellow lid) in each local government area.

Alternative bin sizes at different price points may be available from some local councils.

Some local councils offer the option of collecting green and organic waste in a green-lid bin. Because this service is not available in all parts of southeast Queensland and is optional in most local government areas, we do not yet include green-lid bin charges in our comparison.

Local councils offer various levels of access to local tips, or waste and recycling centres. Many councils impose charges for use of these facilities while others provide residents or ratepayers with free access, sometimes with a voucher system. We do not take the costs of using tips into account in our comparison of rates and charges because not all ratepayers regularly use council operated rubbish tips.

Water services and sewerage

Some local councils (Redland, Logan, Gold Coast and Toowoomba) provide water supply and waste water services. In other local government areas, water services are provided by a utility company which is jointly owned by various local councils:

  • Unitywater is owned jointly by Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Noosa Councils;
  • Urban Utilities is owned jointly by Brisbane, Ipswich, Scenic Rim, Somerset and Lockyer councils.

Some water service charges are imposed on a flat rate per day basis and other charges vary according to the volume of water used. For comparison across local government areas, we assume that each homeowner uses 180 kilolitres per year. This figure has been cited by Gold Coast City Council in its budget documents as a basis for year-on-year comparisons.

Discounts for early payment

Most local councils in southeast Queensland offer discounts for prompt payment of rates. These discounts (usually only applying to general rates and maybe some specific charges) are taken into account when comparing rates and charges in the various local government areas because we assume that most homeowners will pay their bills on time if a generous discount is available. Redland, Moreton Bay and Sunshine Coast councils do not offer any early payment discounts.

Pensioner discounts

Some local councils offer concessions for people who can demonstrate that they are full or part pensioners. The generosity of these concessions varies from council to council. We do not take pensioner discounts into account when doing our comparison because our focus is on comparing the rates and charges that most residential homeowners are paying. If required, it would be possible to do a separate comparison of rates and charges for pensioners.

State Government bulk water charge

Water service bills include a bulk water charge controlled by the State Government which is a variable charge per kilolitre. Since 2020/21, this charge has been standard across the various local government areas connected to the south east Queensland water grid. The only SEQ local government area not connected to the water grid is Toowoomba. At present, we don’t  include Toowoomba in our comparison of local council rates and charges in southeast Queensland.

Emergency Management Levy

Local council rates bills include another charge controlled by the State Government which is the Emergency Services Levy. This levy is the same in most urbanized local government areas, areas but a lower rate applies in smaller semi-rural shires e.g. Somerset and Scenic Rim which are less well served with fire and emergency services.

Sources of data

Local councils adopt a budget for each financial year at meetings held in June or July.

Resolutions adopted at these council meetings are included in meeting minutes published by each council. Councils also publish their annual  budget documents on their websites. Each council’s budget resolutions and budget documents include details of a that council’s rates, rating policies, additional charges and discounts.

The Valuer-General publishes reports on property valuations for local government areas including median residential property values. Historical reports are available on the State Government’s website.

Water utilities Unitywater and Urban Utilities (which are owned jointly by local councils) publish charges for water and sewerage services on their websites.

Bulk water charges imposed by SEQ Water (and ultimately approved by the State Government) are subject to regulatory oversight by the Queensland Competition Authority. Details of these charges are publicly available.

The Emergency Management Levy Amounts are included in regulations tabled by the State Government in State Parliament showing the applicable amounts for different categories of local government area.

Redlands2030 – 9 May 2024

1 thought on “Comparison of Rates and Charges in Southeast Queensland”

  1. The Rates I paid for the last three years

    The following is what I have paid during the last four years.
    21/21 $2,169
    21/22 $2,310 6.5%
    22/23 $2,560 10.8%
    23/24 $2,709 5.8% (Based on the first three quarters)
    Overall for the three years: 24.89% for a small two bedtoom unit

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