Fewer councillors, more trees? I'd vote for that

Letter to the editor from John Blake, West Gladstone

FEWER councillors, more trees - worth a vote.

I agree with Charlie Hartridge's observations about the need for "less full-time councillors" (Observer, 25/10).

>> Proposal to drop two councillors ignites debate

With a well-paid army of professional council staff, guided every step of the way with by-laws, regulations and a multitude of council policy documents, you would have to assume that the council could run be run, just in auto-pilot mode.

This aspect of council therefore raises the legitimate question: just how many how many full-time councillors are too many?

(Say at $80,000+ annually for each one, and add another $50,000+ on top of that for a mayor.)

Talking about surplus to requirements, the council-owned Gladstone Airport is a case in point.

The Gladstone airport has turned out to be a big-ticket item for the council and ratepayers.

Are there any full-time councillors familiar with the running costs of the airport board? We don't know.

More importantly, are there any full-time councillors capable of measuring performance of the board against expectations and reporting findings back to ratepayers?

We don't know because it has not happened.

All we got told was that half ($28 million) of the airport debt was being lumped back on ratepayers.

This begs the question: why transfer the whole $65 million debt to the airport corporation in the first place, if it was planned to shift half of the burden back on to ratepayers only short time later.

Obviously the prospect did not rate worthy for detail in the council's full-page advertisement (Observer, 29/01/11, page 60), to "debunk myths" about the airport becoming a burden to ratepayers and pushing up annual rate charges.

And so, how many full-time councillors sit on the airport board, protecting the interests of ratepayers and supervising potential cost blowouts? Not one.

As for Mr Hartridge's suggestion of removing the roadway gardens (not more "Italian grass", please), I have reason to decline support for this particular proposition.

Recently returned from a fact-finding trip, I could not be more impressed by those towns and cities that have adopted heavy planting of trees, shrubs and flowers to soften the appearance of our roads and highways.

If it had to come down to it, I would settle for more trees and fewer full-time councillors. Go you Parks and Garden unit.

Gladstone region sits "top heavy" when it comes to the comparative high cost of council rates for services provided.

If the council is serious about reducing ratepayer burden, then I believe that the district would be best served, and more equitably, by having one councillor from each of the old shires of: Gladstone, Calliope and Miriam Vale, and throw in a mayor for good luck, for a grand total of four.

Savings could be passed on to ratepayers in lower rate charges, and perhaps a little money to sprinkle water on the vegie patch.

Fewer councillors and more trees? Now that would be worth voting for.

Email your letter to letters@gladstoneobserver.com.au or post it to PO Box 351, Gladstone, Qld, 4680. 

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