By Jeremy Sollars
The Granite Belt Community Association (GBCA) has vowed to keep up the fight for the de-amalgamation of Warwick and Stanthorpe, despite being dealt a major blow by the State Government.
Queensland Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has written to the GBCA advising them he has decided not to refer their proposal and business case for a new ‘Granite Belt Council’ to the independent Local Government Change Commission.
The decision effectively means the chances of a split from Warwick happening while the ALP Palaszczuk Government is in power in Queensland are zero, as the ALP’s policy in the past has been to amalgamate small councils, not split councils up.
The former Warwick and Stanthorpe Shires were brought together in a forced marriage by the ALP government of Anna Bligh in 2008 along with many other forced amalgamations in Queensland.
The former Noosa, Douglas, Livingstone and Mareeba councils were allowed to de-amalgamate by the LNP government of Campbell Newman following a political campaign promise made ahead of the 2012 state election.
Despite Mr Hinchliffe’s blow the GBCA remains adamant their campaign is far from over, but have conceded it may take another change of state government to see it happen – and likely along with a new Southern Downs Regional Council administration.
The next council election is in March 2020 while the next state election is set down for October next year.
Southern Downs councillors – with the exception of Vic Pennisi and Cameron Gow – voted against supporting de-amalgamation in April, primarily citing a Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) report which concluded a split was not financially viable.
The QTC report predicted rates under a new Granite Belt Council would rise by 82 per cent in the first year alone, a finding the GBCA has fiercely disputed.
“After carefully evaluating all the matters I had before me, I’ve decided not to refer this case to the Change Commission,” Mr Hinchliffe said in a statement.
“Everyone involved in this proposal has known from the start that any proposal for change needs to stack up financially and have the support of the affected councils.
“This is in line with longstanding government policy, including the previous Government’s policy.”
GBCA spokeswoman Amanda Harrold told the Free Times earlier today, Friday 24 May, that the group would continue to lobby for de-amalgamation “as long as the community says they want us to”.
“We have both a state and a council election coming up next year and we will continue with this campaign,” she said.
“If the community at any stage tells us to stop, then we’ll stop.
“Our voices were overlooked with the forced amalgamations, and they are being overlooked now.
“As witnessed at the recent federal elections, the local and state government needs to start listening to the people and treating them with respect, or else they might be in for a big surprise at the elections next year themselves.”
GBCA president Rev Alan Colyer said the group was “particularly disappointed that the minister has chosen to not consider the GBCA’s response to the SDRC Management Review and the recently released critique of the Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) report which clearly outlined the many significant flaws within the QTC report”.
“Instead, the two critiques of the GBCA proposal, the SDRC Management Review and the SDRC commissioned Grassroots Connections Group were considered along with the QTC report,” he said.
“This decision was essentially based on the QTC report which is flawed and on the SDRC vote which was based on the same flawed QTC report.
“The GBCA believes that many aspects of the entire process require further scrutiny and we are currently pursuing a number of avenues of investigation and appeal.”