North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers.
North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers.

Frustrated mayor lays out the challenges for community

FED up, frustrated and with ‘nothing left to lose’, North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers has publically aired the issues that keep the region’s councillors up at night.

In a lenghty public post on social media Cr Chambers has detailed the council’s financial difficulties.

“As a mayor, it’s my job to remain politically impartial,” she said.

“It is by being impartial that council can do the best for our people.

“The problem with this however is that I never truly get to speak my mind publicly.

“Given the North Burnett has really nothing left to lose, I’’d like to start.”

Cr Chambers then explained why the “councillors don’t sleep” and the issues they tried “not to worry the community about”.

“The time has come where in the interest of transparency and accountability I feel you all should know the whole story,” she said.

“In April, council were told that our borrowings would not be approved by the State Government.

“This is after submitting our application in October 2018 and having then only two months to re-evaluate our budget to make adjustments before having to adopt it for the 2019/2020 financial year.

“Two reasons cited for this refusal were one - because we ran an operational deficit (spent more than we earned - with 7000 ratepayers and 12th largest road network this will always be the case) and two - that we were at risk of natural disaster (once again ... always).

“If we can’t borrow, we can’t improve. We have more than enough cash reserves to service a much higher loan amount than requested. Our capacity to pay back the loan was not the reason for the refusal.”

Compounding the issue, Cr Chamber said in June 2019, the council finalised all the flood recovery works which meant all flood money, which has helped sustain communities somewhat during the previous eight years, has been removed from the community.

“In July, Deputy Mayor Faye Whelan and myself went to Canberra to plead for help to keep our council and community at liveable Australian standards,” she said.

“We went armed with eight projects which would stimulate our economy and improve our liveability.

“So far, none of these have even been given another meeting.

“In August, we began consulting with staff as to how we can save $1.5 million this year in order to satisfy the States requirements of us.

“In September, we were finally drought declared (after I had to I ask the Minister to intervene), the mine in Monto with 50 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs went under administration and the Paradise Dam debacle kicked up a notch, once again with very little conversation about what this means to the North Burnett.

“We also met with the State as to our waste costs since the waste levy was introduced.”

Cr Chamber went on to detail how this week the “unions have taken a strong stance on how council is trying to achieve the savings requested by State Government, while public servants were promised $250million”.

“There’s 44 unsustainable councils in the state who struggle to provide basic service delivery to their communities,” she said.

“$1.69million would allow us to provide a greater road service level, $500,000 would fix our playgrounds and $5.7million would start repairing our bridges.

“This would help provide jobs for our community! Jobs that both political parties continually advocate for.

“Council is trying our absolute best to protect and care for the communities we love.

“It just seems that we may be the only ones who are.”