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Somerset Regional Council Weekly Highlights - 24 September 2021

Published: 24th September 2021

Approval for subdivision near Fernvale Woolworths extended to March 2023

Somerset Regional Council has conditionally approved an extension of time for the development of a 108-lot residential subdivision on Fox Street in Fernvale.

Economic Recovery Sub-Group representative Cr Bob Whalley said, “We acknowledge that the developer was seeking an extension to September 2025 but Council took into consideration that the original approval for this development dates from 2010. We feel allowing an extension to March 2023 is sufficient in this instance.”

This development sits next right on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and is directly behind Fernvale Woolworths.

At the same meeting, the Council approved a rare rural subdivision south of Esk under an exemption in the Planning Regulation.

“While State planning laws prohibits most rural subdivisions in south-east Queensland, there are a few exemptions and this property at Glen Esk fits into one of them,” Cr Whalley said.

“Where a parcel of land is severed by a road that was gazetted before 2 March 2006 or a State-controlled road, it is possible to subdivide it along the road reservation.”

“There are actually hundreds of these situations through Somerset and we would be happy to answer questions from affected rural property owners as to what may be possible if they want to contact our friendly planners,” Cr Whalley said.


Practical environmentalism on show with reduction in pest animals

Somerset Pest Management Working Group representative, Cr Sean Choat has hailed statistics in Council’s monthly Planning and Development Department report.

“Council instigated bounties on feral pigs in order to protect agricultural land, protect the environment and reduce the impact of these animals on human health,” Cr Choat said.

“This is practical environmentalism and the pig bounty additional to Council’s bounty on wild dogs that also cause devastation at a time when drought-affected farmers can least afford it.”

“I am pleased to note that bounties were paid on 160 wild animals in August 2021, which was up from the 115 in July.”

Council also provided a large number of 1080 baits for dogs and pigs,1154 in total for August, which was more than double the previous month’s total,” Cr Choat said.


Council calls for more frequent land revaluations to moderate increases

Somerset Regional Council has asked the Queensland Department of Resources to issue official land revaluations more frequently in order to moderate changes.

Economic Recovery Sub-Group representative Cr Jason Wendt said, “Many people may not be aware that the Department of Resources charges Council a compulsory annual levy of around $117,000 for carrying out annual land revaluations, but they generally only provide a revaluation every second year.”

“What we have asked them is to issue their yearly revaluations at least annually so that changes in official valuations will be more moderate when they come out.”

“The State values we are seeing are the cumulative effect of 24 months of changes in a market that is changing rapidly.”

“To give just one example from official State Government statistics, median rentals for a three-bedroom house in Somerset have increased from $300 per week in June 2020 to $340 per week in June 2021 – that’s 13% in 12 months.

“There is also community benefit in property owners getting more frequent valuation information given the current economic situation with lockdowns, drought and bushfire,” Cr Wendt said.


Council secures more ratepayer savings

Somerset Regional Council will look to save around $9,000 a year through initiatives adopted at its 22 September meeting.

Audit Committee representative Cr Helen Brieschke said, “We know we are dealing with ratepayers’ money and every dollar we save can be invested into better services.”

“This month, we are looking to save GST by applying a new tax ruling, we will be abolishing two unviable freehold lots and we will be applying for a grant to put solar at our Lowood and Esk SES buildings.”

“We have now put solar arrays on 17 of our buildings and our power bills are down some $60,000 as a result.”

“We have got our total number of freehold lots from 316 at the last official land valuation down to 171 lots as at 30 June 2021 while at the same time we have seen the independent valuation of Council’s land go from $9.8 million up to $20.6 million.”

“This is a considerable portfolio that we can use to help develop our community in future years,” she said.


Council looks to expand Esk works depot

Somerset Regional Council has given approval for the CEO to negotiate the purchase of two lots at the front of its Esk works depot from the Uniting Church.

Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said, “It is time to grow and we will need more land for our key logistics hubs - our works depots – to help build the infrastructure that Somerset needs.”

“We have found that we are increasingly storing materials like concrete pipes at outlying locations because there is no room for them at our works depots.”

“The two Uniting Church blocks that may be for sale are adjacent to Redbank Creek in Esk and also next to our works depot.”

“We will negotiate with the Uniting Church for the two lots based on the independent valuation we have commissioned,” Mayor Lehmann said.


Be prepared for bushfire season

Somerset Regional Council’s Local Disaster Management Group has received advice from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) about bushfire risk for the upcoming fire season.

Local Disaster Management Group representative Cr Kylee Isidro said, “The advice is that there has been a fair build-up of fuel over recent months and moisture in the grasslands is expected to naturally cure and dry out over coming months.”

“The Bureau of Meteorology is then predicting higher than average rainfall over summer.”

“Our advice is that residents should prepare for the fire season by taking sensible precautions with vegetation and other debris around the home, clearing out gutters and getting bushfire readiness plans in place.”

“Council will shortly contribute around $154,000 to volunteer rural fire brigade groups, which is the amount requested by the QFES back in May this year to fund rural fire operations and some capital upgrades of fire stations which we are very happy to do,” Cr Isidro said.

Somerset Region’s bushfire season started earlier this week with a grass fire at Gregor Creek.  At one stage, QFES had over twenty (20) fire trucks on the ground supporting the rural brigades yesterday.  This is reminder to all residents to review emergency plans.


$28,000 in community assistance grants

Somerset Regional Council will conditionally provide community assistance grants of $28,360 to 12 community groups following a Council resolution at its meeting on 22 September 2022.

Human Social Recovery Sub-Group representative Cr Cheryl Gaedtke said, “Volunteer community groups are the lifeblood of the Somerset community and our community assistance grants program exists so we can help out where we can.”

Projects funded in this round include Mount Kilcoy and Toogoolawah P&C Associations with school projects, helping Valley of the Lakes Garden Club with preparations for the upcoming Esk Garden and Lifestyle Fair and helping Lowood Show Society get ready to host the Lowood Rodeo in October.

Council will also provide grants to Esk Men’s Shed, Esk Anglican Fellowship, Esk and District Kindergarten, Fernvale Community Church, Kilcoy Golf Club, Linville Progress Association, Lions Camp Duckadang and Lowood RSL.

Council also agreed to pursue a grant for the Moore Soldiers Memorial Hall Association with $26,059 for painting of the hall, which is also the designated evacuation facility for the town in the event of an emergency.

“However, should Council be unsuccessful with the grant, Council will continue to support the Moore Soldiers Hall Association to paint the hall at a cost of $26,059 via a community assistance grant,” Cr Gaedtke said.

“We encourage all local community groups to apply for community assistance grants towards any worthy project that they have in mind in future rounds,” Cr Gaetdke said.


Review of the March 2020 Council elections

Somerset Regional Council has received the long-awaited review of the 28 March 2020 local government elections from the Electoral Commission Queensland.

Mayor Graeme Lehmann said, “We have previously spoken out that ECQ charged nearly a 70% increase to Somerset ratepayers for the running of the 2020 council elections versus the 2016 elections, while taking more than two weeks to declare the results of the poll.”

“We understood that ECQ had some poll delays as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but we were obviously concerned about the increase which was far more than inflation when we – like every other Council – are trying to keep our costs down.”

“ECQ’s review into the March 2020 elections has come nearly 18 months after the council elections were held.”

“Positives from the review are ECQ’s pledge to work with local government to address issues raised by councils after the 2020 elections.”

“Ratepayers of course end up paying for the performance of ECQ with council elections and for Somerset, the 2020 ECQ bill was more than $160,000.”

“At the very least, ECQ need to work on managing their costs ahead of the 2024 council elections,” Mayor Lehmann said.

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