The Bundaberg Regional Council has released its 2021-2022 Budget which has delivered more pain for Bundaberg farmers and ratepayers in general.

Dubbed by Council as “responsible” the special budget meeting slapped a 1.9% general rate rise on all Bundaberg Ratepayers, which is on top of the up to 235% increases gouged from Category 9 rural ratepayers in last year’s budget.

The budget was passed with only one dissenting vote from Cr Greg Barnes who raised his concern that the unjustified increases to Category 9 rural rates had not been addressed in this year’s budget nor had all requested budget information been provided to Councillors before the budget vote was held.

In response, Finance portfolio spokesman Cr Steve Cooper stated that:

“We considered representations from Dean Cayley and Tom Marland to give Canegrowers a $2.6m special deal but felt this would have been unfair to all other ratepayer categories, specifically residential ratepayers, mums and dads, pensioners and small business operators whose valuations didn’t increase last year,” Cr Cooper has said.

The Bundaberg Farmers consortium made up of CANEGROWERS Isis, Bundaberg CANEGROWERS, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers and Agforce are uncertain why “Canegrowers” have been deliberately targeted by Council when all agricultural representative groups in the Bundaberg region have raised concerns with last years unjustified rural rate rises.

The Bundaberg Farmers consortium is also uncertain that it was a “special deal” to ask Councillors to do their jobs properly and comply with the State Governments Rating Guidelines.

To justify Councils unjustified attack on the Bundaberg farming community, Cr Cooper has sought to defend Councils conduct by stating:

“If non-agricultural ratepayer who didn’t have the benefit of increased equity were left to pick up this bill it would have been an increase of about $59 per household, or an additional 1.75 per cent general rate increase.”

“We don’t think there is anything special about requesting that Councillors do their jobs properly” said Peter McLennan from CANEGROWERS Isis.

“I’m not sure why they have targeted Canegrowers – all farming groups in the Bundaberg region are resolute about the unjustified increases to Category 9 ratepayers” said Joe Lyons of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers.

“It’s interesting that Councillor Cooper makes no mention of the “special deal” done between the Mayor and the CEO to provide a pay increase during the COVID lock-downs and at the same time putting a pay freeze on council workers” said Tom Marland of Agforce.

“He also makes no mention of the $2 million odd Council spend on their propaganda machine Bundaberg Now” said Mr Marland.

“At the same time Council were crying poor and passing on their mismanagement to our hard working farmers the Mayor was handing out pay rises to his mates” said Dean Cayley of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS.

“It appears Cr Cooper still doesn’t know how to do his job properly because the laws clearly state that an increase in the value of someone’s land or their capacity to pay cannot be used as justification to put up their rates” said Peter McLennan.

“Rates increases can only be justified by an increase in services and for many farmers those services were non-existent to start with and the rates increases just added insult to injury” said Mr Lyons.

“House prices have increased in Bundaberg and Bargara during COVID – it will be interesting to see if Council are game enough to not adjust the cents in the dollar on residential properties when the valuer general does his reassessment,” said Mr Marland.

“Rather than having a few thousand farmers and council workers knocking at their doors they might see a few more Bundaberg residents realising that this Council is out of control with their spending and fiscal mis-management,” said Mr Cayley.