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CONTENT: Development, Council Investigations, Rates Raise on Service StationsGympie Times: 30 August – Development
QUESTION: Since the start of the 2021 there have been 59 subdivision applications proposing a total of 257 new blocks lodged with Gympie Regional Council, more than was lodged in 2019 (47) and 2020 (54). The council has approved 180 lots so far this year, having given the green light to 39 applications." Given the controversy that has opened up re: land clearing and the environment, can I please get comment from the council on the matter? Is there concern about the high number of applications and their impact across the region? How is it balancing development and the environment?
ANSWER: Gympie Regional Council’s Planning Scheme provides a clear decision-making framework for all development applications. The framework ensures a balanced approach to supporting strong growth, nurturing resilient communities and maintaining healthy natural systems. Council assesses all development applications in accordance with its Planning Scheme.
The Planning Scheme also has clearly identified zones for different types of development. The location of these zones considers the impact of the different types of development on things like the environment and the broader community to ensure that any development is sustainable. Sustainable development throughout the region is further supported by the Conservation Significant Areas Overlay within the Planning Scheme.
At this time, Gympie’s Planning Scheme allows for projected growth of up to 10 years into the future.
__Gympie Times: 02 September – Council Investigations
QUESTION: The Services Union has made a new statement about ongoing internal investigations in Gympie Regional Council, including statistics from an internal staff survey. I've attached the release as link and pdf below for your convenience. Does CEO Shane Gray have any response to these claims, particularly in relation to the accusations of procedural unfairness? How many investigations are being carried out? How many have been finished? What is being done to address the staff morale issues raised in the survey?
ANSWER: “It’s not appropriate for Council to discuss or comment on any investigations as we need to respect the privacy of our staff, however we do understand that investigations can be confronting and can cause stress and anxiety, which is not our intention.
However, as a community organisation funded by residents, we have a responsibility to ensure that staff represent and act with the highest rate of integrity and accountability. Unfortunately, due to the nature of some investigations, this can take time especially when external agencies are involved.”
CEO Gympie Regional Council Shane Gray
__Gympie Times: 03 September – Council investigations
QUESTION: In seeking comment from the Services Union on some questions I had about their release, the following comment was made as part of the response: "We are alarmed by some of the shonky investigation practices that have been occurring at the Council and it is clearly having an impact on staff morale."
Does Shane have any response to this, particularly re: the claim some of the council's investigation practices are "shonky"?
ANSWER: For all employees involved in investigations, including witnesses, council offers our employees a free confidential counselling service (Employee Assistance Provider) to support them, which is formally provided to each person in writing.
__Gympie Today: 3 September – Rates Raise on service stations
QUESTION: 1) How was the decision made to introduce these new rates? (From Light Industry/Transport to Medium Service Station) 2) Is this how other service stations in the region have always been charged or has this been recently recalculated? 3) One thing the manager mentioned to me is that as a business, they simply did not budget for such a large increase and they are concerned about how they can proceed, is this something that was considered by Council?
ANSWER: As part of the 2021-2022 budget deliberations, a detailed review of council’s rating strategy was undertaken. This review looked at a number of aspects relating to council’s rating system, including determining if there was a more equitable method for distributing the cost of rates across all ratepayers in the region.
The review found that residential and rural rates were high in comparison to their section of the economy and number of residents and that commercial and industrial rates (including service stations) were relatively low. To address these findings, Council adopted a revised rating model for its 2021-22 Budget which included an expansion in the number of rating categories for the commercial, industrial, extractive and service station industry sectors.
The process for determining which of the four new categories (small, medium, large, extra-large) each business belongs to is based on the number of individual fuel hoses at each service station, instead of the size of the parcel of land they are located on.
Council recognises that the introduction of these new rating categories and the resulting increase in general rate will have an impact on the operating costs of these businesses. Once council endorsed the 2021-22 budget, correspondence was sent to all affected ratepayers in July advising of the change.
David Lewis – Director – Corporate Financial Services