No extra rates for council

GLADSTONE mining and liquefied natural gas (LNG) industries will pay council rates like everybody else.

Xstrata Coal will save $480,000 a half-year after winning an appeal against a massive rise in rates imposed by the former Bowen Shire Council.

The Supreme Court in Queensland has ruled that rates should be calculated on the value of a property and not on the capacity (or wealth) of the owner to pay.

The Bowen Shire Council believed that a higher rate for coal mines should be imposed because, among other things, people who own land on which coal mining is carried out are likely to have the capacity to pay the proposed differential rate.

A Supreme Court judge initially ruled in favour of the Bowen Shire Council but the Court of Appeal overturned that decision on Friday.

In a unanimous decision, the court found in favour of the mining companies and ruled that the rate notices issued be set aside.

Gladstone Regional Council CEO Graeme Kanofski said the issue is about what rate in the dollar council can levy. “The court ruled that a council cannot levy a differential rate based on the capacity of the owner to pay,” Mr Kanofski said.

“GRC levies higher differential rates on industry on the basis of the higher impact they have on council infrastructure and services.  

“The fact is the current industries do pay more and will continue to do so. The reasons for our higher charge have not been challenged.”

A spokesperson for Xstrata told The Observer yesterday the company was pleased with the court's decision and believed it had appropriately and fairly addressed a significant issue for landowners.

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