Council gets serious about rates
Thursday 01 December 2016
The Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC) is taking a carrot and a stick approach to getting rates paid in places like Blackwater.
This week council announced plans to force the sale of properties that have unpaid rates stretch back five or six years, although they are also offering to negotiate a payment plan with landholders to avoid taking this final step.
Unpaid rates have become a big issue across the Bowen Basin, with around $14 million currently owed to the Isaac and Central Highlands Regional Councils.
According to figures released by the CHRC delinquent ratepayers exist in just about every community, however, it’s the region's two biggest towns that have the highest amount owing.
In Emerald, there is about $181,000 worth of rates that Council is gravely concerned about, while at Blackwater the figure is around $141,000.
“We don’t know if the properties are vacant or not,” a CHRC spokesperson told the Blackwater Review.
“Who owns them is not made public, but the categories of properties that could be sold in Blackwater include residential principal places of residence, non-principal places of residence, multi-units, commercial and public accommodation.
“There is no timeline as such for the sales; however 16 letters were sent last week to property owners giving them three months to pay the debt in full.
“If this doesn’t happen council puts the properties up for sale in groups, usually starting with the most desirable ones.
“These properties are ones where Council hasn’t received rates for 5 or 6 years – so clearly arrears began before the mining downturn.
“But the message is that Council is open to negotiating with anyone experiencing difficulty paying rates—there’s always a solution, but they just need to call 1300 242 686.”
CHRC Mayor Kerry Hayes told the ABC the debt owed to Council was affecting the services of everyone living in the Central Highlands.
"Anytime councils want to talk about that it really is a last resort … people have a lot of opportunities to rectify their arrears before then," he said.
"As a council and as a business, if the money isn't coming in then obviously works, and capital expenditure can't happen.”
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