USER PAYS: Gympie Regional Council has voted to keep a $6.50 wastewater treatment service charge which has angered residents including Ian McConachie, Ron Cooper and Doug Logan.
USER PAYS: Gympie Regional Council has voted to keep a $6.50 wastewater treatment service charge which has angered residents including Ian McConachie, Ron Cooper and Doug Logan. Troy Jegers

Controversial Gympie council fee here to stay

A CONTROVERSIAL $6.50 fee for wastewater treatment service reports is here to stay after Gympie Regional Council denied a motion to abolish it yesterday.

Councillor Hilary Smerdon called for the controversial fee to be repealed, arguing it was "unfair” to rural residents who were required to install these systems.

The fee was charged every time a service technician lodges a report on the On-site Management Application.

"Noosa and the Sunshine Coast use the same apps for no charge,” he said.

Gympie Councillor Hilary Smerdon. Gympie Regional Council
Cr Hilary Smerdon. Renee Albrecht

The charge has drawn the ire of service businesses and rural ratepayers, who were having the cost passed onto them.

The fee is a fund to cover the majority of a legally required registry that the council said costs about $46,000.

Cr Smerdon said the council should be able to recoup this by cross-subsidising through the region's rates.

He pointed to the Southside Sewerage Plan as an example of ratepayers footing the bill for other people's sewage: there, he said, properties were getting about $700,000 worth of free connections.

The motion was defeated 7-2 with Cr Glen Hartwig the only other supporter.

Rainbow Beach main street Cr Mark McDonald.
Cr Mark McDonald. Renee Albrecht

Cr Mark McDonald said fairness was definitely at stake for ratepayers. "I think it's unfair for the greater community to pay for this,” he said.

He said people would adjust to it being a "user pay” service, and it was crucial the council was not swayed by "populism”.

"We get three or four very loud, very objectionable people who want to guide the way we go... and the silent majority is out there wishing greatly we'd make the right decision.”

And on the idea other councils were not charging, he said that might not be a long-term deal. "I believe we will see the app taken up by many councils,” Cr McDonald said.

"Our staff have gone out and put us right at the forefront of this.

"We should be very proud.”