Sam Delawarr: An SMBI Community Campaigner's View of Redland City Council
My name is Sam Delawarr and I have been a ratepayer in Redlands for 35 years.
I'm a retired Senior Nurse and, until a some eight years ago, I happily paid my rates and had little to do with local politics, other than attending various community meetings. I had also provided written input into some regional and local planning issues for the South Moreton Bay Island (SMBI) community.
I was the President of the Moreton Bay Combined Islands Association for many of the years of Council administrations past and have been tracking the issues relating to the SMBIs for decades.
I am sharing my views with Redlands LIFE so that those who may not otherwise pay attention, might understand the types of issues that are of concern to the most far flung of this City' residents - its SMBI residents.
I became more closely involved with local issues when the Redland City Council delivered a 205% hike in rates. I became concerned about the:
Withdrawal of infrastructure;
Dismissal of residents’ concerns;
Vast accumulating debt;
Council staffing numbers that seemed to be increasing disproportionately;
Extent of the fees being paid by the then Council to external consultants without a decision ever resulting; and
Hijacking of our water supply by the State Government.
I am not a developer, real estate agent, LNP supporter nor political donor, nor do I have any ties with this current Council other than a genuine appreciation for the turn around that has come about under its watch.
I am simply someone who has been paying attention as a campaigner on behalf of the rights of people living on the SMBIs.
I was by turns disgusted, alarmed and horrified by what went on during the previous Council Administration.
In 2010 the then Hobson Administration commissioned a $440,000 report on 'Redland Rate Model Engagement' which included a 'Community Survey on Ratings Values 2010', with some involvement in the process by now Mayoral Candidate Greg Underwood.
After securing these documents under the Right To Information - despite much of what I had asked for having "disappeared" - I discovered that community concerns were being manipulated by either the bureaucracy, staff and/or councillors.
I found that 80% of Redland ratepayers were demanding infrastructure to be spread across the whole of the City and not just in suburbs that were already over-serviced and appeared to do very well, year after year, with disproportionate revenue allocations.
The largest suburb in the Redlands in terms of both population (ratepayers) and revenue raising, that is the SMBIs, was receiving little to no funds for infrastructure.
The vast majority of Redlanders, the survey found, believed the rating system was unfair, with high-end land rates values subsidised by the low end properties which were paying an unfair level of Council rates.
But these views were ignored by the Administration in which Mr Underwood played a central role. (In fact he was Acting CEO at the time).
Massive rates increases occurred across the City from 2008-2011, some of which were and remain the highest rates per land value in Australia - unfortunately where rates are concerned, they can never go backwards.
What I discovered was that those in charge of Redland City Council at the time had misrepresented the findings of the survey to read '22% agree to rates exploitation of lowered value properties'.
This misleading and inaccurate 'fact' was used to set some really devastating property rates that saw ratepayers on the SMBIs lose their land, lifestyle and retirements and created a property crash unheard of in Australia previously.
All of this devastation and injustice occurred while the past Council (Melva's Mob) ruled with a big stick approach to ratepayers.
It was an attitude that caused such angst in our close SMBI community that Melva was pushed out in a landslide.
I am, as you can imagine, distressed by the idea that the same Administration is seeking another go with some of the same faces in place.
Under the previous regime, what was once was my beautiful retirement dream, like so many others, became our worst nightmare.
Through my role with the MBCI Association for many of those last dreadful Melva years, I heard many stories from mum and dad ratepayers that were absolutely heartbreaking. I was watching a he complete breakdown of morale in our SMBI communities.
To add insult to injury, a deal was later struck between the Council and the State in land grabs and to withhold all infrastructure.
As I saw it, this was just another example of the Council’s systemised attack on its southern suburbs of Redlands, while the northern suburbs did very well with infrastructure, amenities and services.
We on the islands have for 40 years paid our rates, that went into general revenue, and received very little in return other than to say your rates are 'paying off council debt'.
You can understand then why I am a great supporter of the current Administration, led by Karen Williams.
As the largest revenue and ratepayer base in Redlands, the SMBIs have seen Council's nett debt returned to zero.
We have seen infrastructure spread out over all suburbs and a sense that progress and justice has returned to Redlands.
The fear campaigns promoting the threat of 'concrete jungles' by those who came here and live in their developed homes on the various-sized lots need to get some perspective.
Only a small amount of housing has been designated as small lots and with just over 9700 Redlands people living alone according to the last Census, there are some who prefer smaller properties. These are usually located along transport and infrastructure routes like it is in all Local Government Areas across the South East.
I believe our children, our families and those of every Redlands ratepayer need somewhere to live and that needs to happen now for the ongoing implementation of new infrastructure to be delivered to the City.
I was involved with the urban renewal designs for New Farm /Teneriffe over 38 years ago (via QUT) and the need for all types of housing availability was the big story then, just as it is today.
That particular project transformed an urban wasteland into a community, supplying all types of housing needs to a very healthy and prosperous suburb including parks, a mosaic overlay of house and accommodations types, employment opportunities and lifestyle.
I am so appreciative of the work done by the Williams team over the past four years.
To to see a sense of community and progress come back to the SMBIs has been wonderful.
To have a rational and decisive Council to follow through has been refreshing. Yes, I still have issues that do not sit well but at least you can discuss them rationally and are heard by most Councillors. This was certainly not the case before.
I also appreciate the fact that that my rates do not go to pay off huge wasteful debts!
I especially want to thank Karen Williams, who was the main Redlands push to get rid of that huge wasteful blunder that was Allconnex. We pay the cheapest water in South East and if not for her, Disconexx and the Gold Coast City Council, we would still be paying a fortune in water rates.
For those that are new to the area, there are some very organised and schmik community pages and supposed news sites designed and run by the old regime trying to create drama and fear.
Please do some homework on these so called "community pages".
If they only promote those aligned with the old Council and never publish any of the good that has come Redlands way over the past four years, then treat them with a pinch of salt like I do.
We never had it so good in Redlands as we have in the last four years and I hope it continues way into the future.
My report card gives Williams an A.