Strelow slams Aurizon for not paying rates

Rockhampton Regional Mayor Margaret Strelow said rail company Aurizon should pay land rates to councils in the state.
Rockhampton Regional Mayor Margaret Strelow said rail company Aurizon should pay land rates to councils in the state. Allan Reinikka ROK09061616abudge

ROCKHAMPTON Region Mayor Margaret Strelow has suggested council should give "strong support" to a motion from the Local Government Association of Queensland for Aurizon to pay land rates.

Speaking during the infrastructure committee meeting, Cr Strelow said the rail company couldn't "have it both ways" and remain exempt from paying rates while not being classified as a government body.

If Aurizon was forced to pay rates on its properties could provide the council with hundreds of thousand of dollars in extra annual revenue.

Councillors were discussing a proposal from Aurizon, which made $72m last financial year, to close a number of rail crossings in the region, including one on Cowan St at Gogango.

The railway crossing gives access to a group of properties owned by the same person from the Capricorn Hwy.

A report tabled to council states closing the crossing would require a new access from either Cowan St or Ohl Rd, with both options 2.8km from the crossing.

Given it is private access to a single property, council policies require the owner to construct and maintain road access.

Both council and Aurizon have consulted with the property owner, who is "not happy with the closure as this will mean additional time to access the property and travel distance on an unsealed road".

The request comes as Aurizon approaches council about closing several crossings with low usage, safety issues or in need of major upgrades.

"In each of the cases, it has been the issues of safety for the railway that has formed the decision to close," the report states.

"In all cases, Aurizon has stated that it is council's responsibility to fund the upgrade or alternate access that is required."

The council report concluded it was reasonable to expect Aurizon reinstate an alternate access for the Cowan St property, given it is imposing on the owner and achieving a reduction in risk profile and cost saving by closing the crossing.

Aurizon has argued each block should already have legal access from a public road, but the owner does have access from an unformed road reserve.

"Council staff's view is that the property has been getting access through the railway crossing for numerous years and since Aurizon is changing this, then Aurizon should either upgrade the railway crossing or provide an alternate access point to the driveway of the property," the report stated.

Councillors agreed with this view, voting in accordance with this recommendation.

Councillors also resolved to organise a meeting with Aurizon about the closing of and safety issues at various crossings in the region.

Aurizon responded to council's comments on Tuesday afternoon, saying it paid council rates, charges and levies on all corporate land held throughout Queensland.

"The rail corridor is owned by the Queensland Government and leased to Aurizon," the statement said.

"Existing and new rail corridor is specifically exempt from Council rates under Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2009 (Qld).

"This exemption also applies to other state government infrastructure such as airports, roads and strategic port land."

Topics:  aurizon rates rockhampton regional council

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