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Community & Business

25 November, 2021

Fund agreement re-think

AN urgent meeting between Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin and Queensland Deputy Premier Stephen Miles was held on Friday after the council refused to sign a new agreement that would have effectively robbed the shire of $600,000 which normally goes towards maintaining and improving facilities in Kuranda.

By Robyn Holmes

PHOTO: @krystof - Dreamstime

The council was being asked to sign the new five-year Kuranda Infrastructure Agreement (KIA) by Friday but rejected it at last week’s meeting because it would mean that instead of both Skyrail and the Kuranda Train contributing to the fund, it would only receive money from the train. 

The KIA was due to expire at the end of last year, however an interim one-year agreement until 31 December 2021 was struck to allow for a comprehensive review required by the Department of Premier and Cabinet which was undertaken by consultants engaged by the council. 

While the intent of the fund initially was to pay for infrastructure to meet the needs of tourists, it was noted that the materials used, ongoing maintenance and renewal or upgrade of facilities had been set at a much higher standard and a higher level of service when compared to infrastructure provided and maintained in other towns. 

At last week’s meeting, the news that the government’s new agreement would reduce the amount of funding from $800,000 a year to just $200,000 a year was clearly unacceptable to councillors. 

“This is of great concern to me as Mayor and as chair of the Kuranda Infrastructure Fund,” Mayor Toppin said. 

“We cannot as a council bear this burden. If we are to maintain or improve infrastructure with $600,000 less in the coffers, it would mean a 4 per cent rate rise for the entire shire and if only Kuranda traders were to pay for the shortfall, it would mean triple their rates.” 

“I have sought an urgent meeting with the Deputy Premier – I am very, very worried. This is extremely unfair for the whole shire.” 

Deputy Mayor Kevin Davies was adamant that the council should not sign the proposed agreement.

“It will stop works in Kuranda and we can’t fund improvements – that is a blow for them … but we can’t afford to do what we do now without that money,” he said. 

Cr Locky Benstead was perplexed as to why the State Government would seek to change the agreement. 

“If something’s not broke, why fi x it? What will Kuranda look like of we’re unable to afford the upkeep and no new projects?” he said. 

The Mayor’s office issued a statement late last week confirming that a meeting between herself, Mareeba Shire CEO Peter Franks and Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Steven Miles had taken place on Thursday during which they requested that the State reconsider the conditions of the proposed new KIA. 

“The Deputy Premier indicated that he would have certain aspects reviewed, and as such, the signing of the proposed agreement will be held off at this stage,” it said.

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