'Heart-breaking': Councillor's emotional drought plea
AN EMOTIONAL plea from Cr Mike Williams has spearheaded the Toowoomba Regional Council's move today to defer rates for drought-affected property owners.
Councillors voted unanimously at a special meeting for Cr Williams' plan to place all general rates on hold for eligible landholders in the region's western areas.
Cr Williams was brought to tears as he fronted the media over the decision, saying the drought was a distressing and very personal issue for him.
"I think you only have to drive across the Darling Downs to see the impact it's having," he said.
"In the last few weeks, I've been driving around and to see the lack of feed across this region is just heart-breaking.
"It's costing me $100 a day to feed my stock. I have angus cows and horses (but) I'm a hobby farmer, I have another income.
"My heart bleeds for those who have no other income. I have family in the bush, and they're hurting."
Under the scheme, ratepayers who own a property and are able to demonstrate eligibility for the Australian Government Farm Household Allowance as a direct result of the 2018-19 drought will be automatically eligible.
Property owners won't have to pay their general rates until March next year. Interest on existing rates will also be frozen.
Mayor Paul Antonio backed the move from the council, adding that it wouldn't likely be the only drought-related initiative the council was involved in.
"We don't have the kind of budgets and capacity to support the drought-affected people the federal government has or the state government has, so we have to do what we can do within reason," he said.
"That's what we can do in local government but we also have an opportunity, listening to some of the rhetoric coming out, to actually get some funding out of the federal government (such as grants).
"I've owned land for 49 years, and I've not seen a situation quite this bad."
Residents who are unsure whether they are eligible, should contact council on 131 872.