RESIDENTS IN REVOLT: Communities rally against water levy
A SENSE of people power is growing across the Southern Downs as thousands of residents take to community halls and social media to protest against the proposed water levy.
The drought-stricken community, already feeling the economic pressure of business and farming closures, were shocked to hear another payment could soon be on the cards.
The levy, which would be imposed on all Southern Downs ratepayers regardless of their personal water source, serves to fund the supply of water to Stanthorpe after Storm King Dam runs dry in December.
Since the announcement by Southern Downs Regional Council, an online poll of more than 1300 people suggested 98 per cent of ratepayers would refuse to pay when the bill arrives in May 2020.
Maryvale Progress Association is holding a community meeting to address the charges, claiming most of the small town should be exempt.
Other residents will be congregating at Swan Creek Hall at 10am on Thursday, July 18, to rally against the levy.
MPA president David Bowen said SDRC's plan was unjust and not equitable to ratepayers who did not have a water connection and did not purchase water from Warwick.
"I won't be able to find the additional money in my budget on a teacher's wage,” he said.
"A lot of people who reside in Maryvale are on pensions or are self-funded retirees receiving minimal interest from their investments due to national record low interest rates.”
Southern Downs Residents Action Group secretary and treasurer Andrew Gale said residents understood money would be needed for Stanthorpe but did not believe this should come from ratepayers who had already invested hundreds of dollars in establishing their own water security plan.
"There's a sense of injustice to pay for something you aren't using,” he said.
"Leaders in council need to understand the amount of pressure they cause when they announce a new fee.”
Both community leaders say the council should explore other revenue streams.
"The mayor has been going on for a couple of years saying they have all of this money in the bank, millions of dollars in reserves, and if that's the case then it's time to spend that money rather than putting the burden back on every community member,” Mr Gale said.
As community members band together to protest and discuss potential solutions, Mayor Tracy Dobie refuses to comment until an impromptu council meeting on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the State Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy said they are aware that council is currently looking into costs and logistics associated with supplying tankered water, "should it be required.”