Mayor certain WBW take over will avoid stamp duty

MAYOR Gerard O'Connell is "100% certain" the council will be exempt from stamp duty as it again attempts to take complete control of Wide Bay Water.

On April 17 the Fraser Coast Regional Council wrote to Deputy Premier Jackie Trad seeking support to gazette a date for the winding up of WBW.

A spokeswoman for Ms Trad said the letter was referred to the department for consideration.

"The state is yet to receive confirmation from the council that it is ready for the transition and as such, has not yet gazetted a date," she said.

And Ms Trad's spokeswoman said the issue of stamp duty was a matter for the Office of State Revenue.

A previous miscommunication in 2013 led to a stoush between the council and Treasury over whether the council would have to pay $65 million in stamp duty.

While Cr O'Connell said in 2013 he had an email confirming they would be exempt, the treasurer's department denied its existence, and the planned takeover was delayed.

But Cr O'Connell yesterday guaranteed the council wouldn't have to pay stamp duty due to legislation allowing a takeover after three years.

"It's not a relevant discussion because of the legislation changes," he said.

Yesterday, the mayor confirmed a letter has been submitted to Queensland's Local Government Minister Jackie Trad expressing intention to bring the entity back.

In a statement Cr O'Connell said the council would again apply, and this time were certain to be exempt from the tax.

"We will work with the government to achieve the transition and it remains on track for early 2016," he said.

"The transition has always been based on achieving savings which can be passed on to ratepayers.

"Council has identified up to $4 million a year in savings that can be made."

But Cr O'Connell didn't outline where those savings would be made.

WBW is an external unit of the council however Cr O'Connell sits on the board of directors.

Former WBW director Geoff Skerritt was sacked from the WBW board after speaking out against the botched 2013 takeover.

And yesterday he continued to argue against council taking over the entity.

"I don't think it's a good idea," he said.

Despite Cr O'Connell's assurances it would save ratepayers $4 million a year, Mr Skerritt said there was "significant evidence" that councils didn't invest money earned from its water business back into that infrastructure.

"The revenue from the water rates, they don't apply it properly," he said.

"It leaks into their general revenue and so the (water) infrastructure is allowed to run down and I think that's a bad thing."

The Chronicle put Mr Skerritt's comments to Cr O'Connell however he declined to comment except to say that "council has dealt with these issues".



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