Analysis / Breaking down the Council fees and charges proposal and deferment

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Tuesday’s Special Council Meeting to adopt the 2020 / 2021 Schedule of Fees and Charges copped a curveball after Cr Zammataro moved an amendment to place a 12-month freeze on current Council fees and charges rather than pass a motion to adopt an average 2.2% (CPI) rise.

Cr Zammataro, seconded by Cr Noli, voted in favour of the amendment to freeze fees and charges for 2020 / 2021 while Mayor Kerr and Cr’s Scomazzon and McKeown voted against the freeze.

Mayor Kerr, after discussions with Councillors and the CEO as to the way forward, moved a second motion, passed unanimously, to defer the adoption of the 2020 / 2021 Schedule of Fees and Charges. The deferred motion will permit Council Officers and Councillors to reconsider the schedule for one week, returning to chambers for a Special Council Meeting at 12.30 pm on Tuesday 09 June 2020.

The Schedule of Fees and Charges is developed in line with Council’s goal to “achieve an equitable ‘user pays’ system for services provided that will continue to assist Council in becoming a long term, financially sustainable organisation,” aiming to ultimately, “recover the cost of providing the
service.” In some cases, Council, “subsidises the service in recognition of the broader community interest.” (1)

During the amendment discussion, Cr’s Zammataro and Noli noted that given the current financial burden faced by a high percentage of Douglas Shire residents moving out of COVID-19, further relief could be achieved through a freeze on fees and charges.

Cr Noli also flagged consideration be given to the reconfiguration of tour bus ferry charges after she was approached by a member of the public
the night before the meeting.

The 2019 / 2020 Douglas Shire Council Budget estimated Council revenue from Fees and Charges at $5 601 566 with a forecasted rise of 3.9% in 2020 / 2021 taking fees and charges revenue to $5 820 027 – a difference of $218 461.

Tuesday’s submission by Council Officers proposed only a 2.2% increase for 2020 / 2021 in line with current CPI, reducing estimated fees and charges revenue in 2020 / 2021 to an estimated $123 234. In simple terms, under Cr Zammataro’s proposal to place a freeze on any increase in fees and
charges for 2020 / 2021, the overall revenue loss would be $123 234.

The fees and charges schedule is adopted for a full year, however, dependent on circumstance, new fees can be introduced, or fees and charges amended throughout the year. Therefore, if a freeze is adopted, there is potential to revisit the schedule in the future should the economic situation

All Councillors were open to revisiting the Schedule of Fees and Charges; however, Mayor Kerr advised in a press release after the meeting, he would “be putting forward the Fees and Charges motion as is, again at the next meeting.” (2)

The 2020/2021 proposed Schedule of Fees and Charges was not a ‘blanket’ 2.2% rise, with some fees increased at or over CPI, reduced, categories redesigned, or new categories introduced to provide greater equity or held at current rates.

Key points identified:

Fees and charges in the following categories, of which are most likely to affect local residents, generally attracted close to the proposed 2.2% increase: Animal Management, Building Services, Mossman Pool, Outdoor Dining, Portable Advertising, Moorings, Cemetery Services, Ferry Charges, Library Services, Environmental Health, Local Laws, Liquid Trade Waste, General and Green Waste, Plumbing and Drainage and Waste and Wastewater.

Hire fees for the Port Douglas Sugar Wharf we recategorised and rates reduced, offering a half-day hire rate of $300 and a full day hire rate of $1500 – changes sure to be welcomed by the wedding and event industry. However, under the new proposal, no exemptions, waivers, or in-kind options will be available for the use of the Sugar Wharf for not for profits, community groups or charity events.

Rex Smeal Park rates were redesigned, and the categories reduced into a half-day fee and full-day fee, resulting in some costs rising and others falling dependent on the event. Redesigned and refined categories for Hall Hire in the region will simplify the booking process, and exemptions for hall hire will still be available for charity, community groups and not for profit for one-off events.

Stallholders at the Port Douglas Markets, who had been lobbying for high and low season rates, under the new proposal would see reduced fees offered between 01 January and 31 March, with no change to the current high season fee.

Under the new proposal, those seeking to develop in the Douglas Shire would see no increases to categories under the Planning Services Schedule.

Planning Services include: Material Change of Use Applications, Reconfiguring a lot (Reconfiguration and Survey Plans), Operational Works (Associated with Reconfiguration of Land, Vegetation Damage, Works on Local Government Roads, Excavation and Filling of Land), Changes or Extensions to Applications/Approvals, Planning and Development Certificates, request to consider an application under a superseded planning scheme, Landscaping Plans, Preliminary Approvals and Variation Requests.


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