**Check against delivery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2zejUEqqqM
Councillors, the Budget presented today sets the foundations on which we will grow a bigger and better Rockhampton Region.
This is a Budget that invests in growth. Growth in services. Growth in population. And growth in infrastructure.
At its heart is a catalyst water and sewage capital program which shows Council’s vision for our region.
We are looking to a better future as we deal with a challenging present. And it has been tough.
We have had pandemics and droughts. Our income has been lower and our bills, higher.
And, through this Budget, we have made the tough calls and the right calls.
This is a budget which delivers certainty in uncertain times.
It looks to the future while looking after our community.
And it grows our population while shrinking our deficit.
The centrepiece of this year’s Budget is a $77 million investment over the next three years in three catalyst projects – the North Rockhampton Sewage Treatment Plant, the Gracemere Sewage Treatment Plant and the Glenmore Water Treatment Plant.
Once completed, these projects will unlock our region’s potential for growth.
They will allow us to grow from a community of around 35-thousand homes and businesses to more than 50-thousand.
I’d like to take a moment to revisit the history of how these projects have reached this point.
In 2013 a planning study for the future of our sewage treatment plants was completed and showed that we needed one of those plants to accommodate a population of one hundred thousand. Council currently has four treatment plants in Rockhampton, Gracemere and Mount Morgan.
An estimate was prepared based on similar plants and inserted into our long term financial forecast. At the time of the study the plant was sized and estimated on growth predictions for a population of one hundred thousand.
The strategies are reviewed every few years and in 2016, those reviews showed that our growth had slowed and we only required a small upgrade to the capacity of the plant, so the estimated population was reduced and our long term financial forecast amended accordingly.
As we seen over the last year and half the region and the city is growing.
The recent growth projections indicate that we now need a plant that can accommodate 75,000. The North Rockhampton Sewage Treatment Plant will be upgraded to cater for significant residential development that we can see with Riverside and Edenbrook as well as the approved 2000 plus lots for the Ellida development.
This plant upgrade will take us through to at least 2042.
Back to the wider budget now and this year alone, our capital program is $151 million with more than $60 million funded by State and Federal Governments.
Within our capital work program, $30 million will be spent on civil infrastructure this year – roads, footpaths and stormwater drains.
Another $14.7 million is going towards our water and sewage network and treatment with more than $3 million to be invested in a solar farm at Glenmore to cut our power bill and increase our sustainability.
$5 million will go into waste projects across the region and almost $30 million will be spent at the airport, $25 million of which is Federal funding towards the new Alliance Hanger.
At the same time, we are investing in the social fabric of our great community so people have the recreational opportunities they need and deserve.
This year will see more than $3 million to continue the redevelopment of the Rockhampton Zoo.
We will begin the $5 million upgrade of the Mount Morgan Pool and invest a million dollars into boat ramp works at Port Alma and Casuarina Creek.
And we are also investing more than $2 million in new parks and maintaining our current ones.
Our commitment to the new Rockhampton Museum of Art continues with $4.3 million in this year’s budget towards fitting out the building and acquisitions. And we will begin a million dollars’ worth of work at the Heritage Village.
As I detail our investment in the community, it is worth noting that it is our community who reaps the benefits.
Based off our previous years, we will typically see 70-80 per cent of that spent locally as we back local businesses as the engine room of our economy.
When I was sworn in as Mayor in February, I said I wanted to work with Councillors to get Council back into black after last year’s deficit of $5.4 million.
I’m pleased to say this Budget sets Council up to return to surplus next financial year. Today, we have reduced that deficit by more than $3 million to end up $2.1 million in the red this year.
Our challenge has been to cut costs without cutting services and that is what we’ve done. From here, we need to stay the course and continue to find better and smarter ways of doing business to stretch our dollar further.
In this budget, we are proposing a rate increase of 3.35 per cent. For the typical residential ratepayer, this is a total of $2.26 extra per week.
We have kept this rate rise as low as possible while ensuring we can continue to fund services, deliver vital infrastructure projects and ensure we do not compromise our future.
We have done this in the face of reduced income from the airport, higher insurance costs and the pressures from the ongoing drought in Mount Morgan which is forcing us to cart water daily.
We will continue our support to residents to help them manage the cost of living.
We have kept the 10% discount for those who pay their rates by the due date and the pensioner rebate is worth up to $260.
When combined with the Queensland Government concession of $200, this is much needed relief for our thousands of pensioners.
I would like to thank and commend my fellow Councillor colleagues for their efforts, the constructive debate and compromises we’ve all had to make over the many workshops undertaken in order to form this budget.
I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of the CEO, Evan Pardon, the Leadership Team and our Chief Financial Officer, Marnie Taylor and her finance team for all the hours and effort you have put into this budget. It is greatly appreciated.
After 17 years in Council, this is the first Budget that I will hand down as Mayor of Rockhampton Regional Council.
I commend the 2021/2022 Budget to you for your consideration and adoption.