Mildura Weekly : Friday May 9 2014 Vol 8 No 27
www.milduraweekly.com.au 6 Mildura Weekly – 09/05/14 Our City in ‘financial distress’ • From Page 3 “We are carrying a responsible level of debt which is classified as ‘medium risk” by the Auditor Gen- eral, but which we expect to see in the ‘low risk’ category by the end of this financial year.” Mr O’Connor said while his di- agnosis of Council’s financial state is confronting, he stressed the need to address these issues now, provid- ing a comprehensive plan he says will turn the situation around. “This is a reasoned attempt to look at the serious and endemic is- sues with this Council and asks the serious questions that need to be asked,” he said. “The community at large needs to know this information, and I hope people see this as a reasoned and informed analysis based on data. I haven’t engaged in a hatch- et job here. I’ve proposed a whole range of solutions.” Some of the solutions con- tained in the report include: • A moratorium on all new debt. • Refinance existing loans to 7.5-year terms. Mr O’Connor says this can be done quickly, and while it will increase Council’s repay- ments by $777,000 per annum, it will save between $28million and $34million in interest compared to the existing long-term loans. • Reign in expenditure to limits of budget rather than increase debt. This would require cuts to expen- diture of between $2.5million and $3million annually to prevent slip- ping further into debt, and about $7million to recover. • Cap property rates and charg- es at 2.5 percent for at least the next six years. • Introduction of a $50 ‘com- munity investment levy’ charge on all rateable properties for five years only. This would generate $7.5mil- lion, which is to be set aside as part of the recovery process. Mr O’Connor added that the recent argument that the district either needs to incur another five percent rate increase or face cuts to services due to Council’s current fi- nancial state isn’t the only scenario. “We’ve got to look at our prob- lems and challenges outside of just increasing rates to meet the gap,” he said. “This community continues to make huge contributions to the revenue of this council. What has to happen here has to be a fundamen- tal examination of Council’s debt, revenue and expenditure.” Mr O’Connor said there didn’t appear to be one single root cause for Council’s current plight, instead pointing to a trend of decision- making over the past four or five years. “This hasn’t just happened over- night. This has been four or five years in the making. We’re seeing the culmination of four or five years of discretionary decision-making that has got us into this position,” he said. Mr O’Connor’s investigation has attracted the support of some of the region’s most successful busi- ness identities including former Mildura Rural City Council Com- missioner Lloyd Thomson and Ross Lake. “The academic rigour applied to this is astonishing, the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced in my lifetime,” Mr Lake , who has read the report, said this week. “There’s a power of work that has gone into this and it is in re- sponse to the invitation by the municipality to examine its own course. “I’m trusting that this will lead to this community understanding that it has the capacity to determine its own future.” Mr Thomson meanwhile urged both the community and Council to consider the report’s findings. “The facts are quite clear. First of all, it’s up to the council and the management to examine these facts,” he said. “Don’t dismiss them as mischie- vous. They owe it to this community to look within, rather than without, and that has been the problem.” Landcare community involvement sought THE Murray-Darling Junction Landcare Group will host its next meeting on Wednesday, May 4, with all interested residents in- vited to attend. To be held at the Artback Gal- lery and Cafe from 5pm, the aim of the meeting is to attract new members and establish a new committee. The Murray-Darling Junction Landcare Group has been in op- eration since 2006, with the past four years spent on hiatus. The group is aiming to once again become involved in envi- ronmental projects and initia- tives around the region, with new members asked to help get the group ‘up and running’ once again. More information about the meeting is available by contacting Kaye Gottschutzke on 5021 9409. 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DARWIN TO BROOME & THE KIMBERLEY 12 days 16th August $5760 Highlights: Darwin, Katherine, Kununurra, Ord River Cruise, El Questro Station, Zebedee Springs, Chamberlain Gorge Cruise, Wyndham, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Boab Prison Tree, Broome, Willie Creek Pearl Farm, Cable Beach. BROOME TO PERTH INCLUDING TOM PRICE & NINGALOO REEF 14 days 25th August $6285 Highlights: Broome 3 nights, Cable Beach, Eighty Mile Beach, Port Hedland, Mt Tom Price Mine Tour, Karijini National Park, Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay, Shark Bay, Carnarvon, Monkey Mia Dolphins, Kalbarri Wildflowers, Perth 3 nights. PERTH & SOUTH WEST COAST 15 days 5th September $5990 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. CANBERRA “FLORIADE” 6 days 29th September $2095 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. YARRA VALLEY, HEALESVILLE & MELBOURNE 6 days 6th October $2050 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. TASMANIA 10 days 15th October (Pen) $4085 (Adult) $4175 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. NEW ZEALAND DISCOVERY 19 days 30th October $5880 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. SAPPHIRE COAST 9 days 21st November $3095 Request the itinerary for the many tour highlights. • Tour costs include: Luxury Coach Travel, Motel Accommodation twin share, Admissions, Meals and Air Fares as per itineraries. • For bookings or to request a full itinerary that details the many tour highlights, please contact Brendan’s Australian Tours, Ararat.
Friday May 2 2014 Vol 8 No 26
Friday May 16 2014 Vol 8 No 28