Council still faces WBW stamp duty bill after govt meeting
A ONE-on-one meeting with Queensland Treasury has not paid off for the Fraser Coast Council as it still faces a $65 million stamp duty bill if it continues its attempt to take back control of Wide Bay Water.
Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell, Deputy Mayor George Seymour and chief executive Lisa Desmond met with Treasury officials on Thursday afternoon to discuss the council's formal application for exemption.
A spokeswoman for Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls confirmed after the meeting the department had not changed its position.
But the council has not backed down.
The meeting was requested by Cr O'Connell after a series of attempts since February to gain exemption from the bill.
Cr O'Connell was more positive about Thursday's meeting and said it was a work in progress.
He said the council had not yet been given an official no from the Treasury.
He said Treasury staff indicated the council's official application would need to be assessed by Mr Nicholls, who is away on a trade mission in China.
Cr O'Connell said staff were not able to give the council an estimate on how long it would take to assess their application.
Ms Desmond told the Chronicle earlier this week the council believed the $65 million bill was morally wrong.
She said ratepayers already owned Wide Bay Water's assets, believed to be worth nearly $750 million, and so should not be forced to pay stamp duty.
The council has faced criticism for basing its decision to take back Wide Bay Water on a public benefit assessment (PBA) report that failed to identify the risk of stamp duty.
Ms Desmond said it was never a requirement of the PBA to account for stamp duty.
She said the council had continuously asked the State Government about the potential stamp duty bill in the weeks leading up to the planned takeover date in February.
Ms Desmond said the council only received an answer two days before the takeover was due to go ahead, forcing the council to call it off.