RATES CHANGES: Council CEO Ken Diehm. Photo: Cody Fox
RATES CHANGES: Council CEO Ken Diehm. Photo: Cody Fox

Major change to council rates to ease virus burden

THE due date for all current Fraser Coast Regional Council rates will be extended to June 30, in an effort to ease the hardship caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

This extension will be offered as part of a $1 million relief package, approved at a special council meeting this morning.

Council CEO Ken Diehm said the package had been put together urgently, in response to the "unprecedented" situation.

"The extent is such that there will be significant impact to our community, especially on the lives of community members, businesses and the economy," he said.

"This will be the most detrimental impact to our economy that we have seen, ever."

While no discounts or waivers would be applied to rates, the extension, which pushes the due date well beyond the usual 30-day payment time frame, would provide immediate relief, Mr Diehm said.

The rates extension applies to all ratepayers, including residents and business owners.

Mr Diehm explained the council was not legally able to waive or reduce interest rates at this stage, under the Local Government Act.

This could be reviewed as part of the next council budget process, he said.

The change to rates payment was one of nine recommendations raised at the special meeting, focused on easing the burden of the coronavirus pandemic on the Fraser Coast community.

All recommendations discussed at the meeting were designed to be implemented immediately, Mr Diehm said, to provide much-needed relief.

A $500,000 grants program for community and sporting groups facing financial hardship as a result of cancelling events due to virus restrictions will also be introduced.

Individual grants will be capped at $10,000, with the exact terms and conditions to be determined.

Mr Diehm said it was likely clubs would have to prove significant financial hardship, not just lost revenue, to be eligible.

Councillor David Lewis recommended clubs must prove they had acted in a timely manner to reduce losses, by cancelling events as early as possible.

Mr Diehm clarified this grants program would be in addition to all existing programs.

Community groups will also benefit from a full refund of all council fees paid for events that have been cancelled recently.