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Brisbane's $60 a year rates hike drives suburb-centric budget

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Brisbane residents are set for a rates hike of more than $60 a year after last year’s COVID-inspired reprieve as Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner fires up the city’s infrastructure spend to cope with population growth.

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Brisbane City Council’s $3.6 billion budget, revealed on Wednesday, is heavily geared towards capital spending on key projects such as the Brisbane Metro transit link, road upgrades and a new green bridges to span the river.

The city’s popular kerbside collection program will return from next month and the council has set aside $15 million for work to begin on its transformation of Victoria Park from a golf course to community parkland.

Schrinner announced a 3.75 per cent increase in residential rates – equivalent to around $16 a quarter and the highest in five years – following the six month freeze introduced in response to the pandemic last year.

He said this amounted to an increase of $1.20 a week for an average household but would still still mean Brisbane had the cheapest rates in south-east Queensland. Pensioner rates rebates of up to 40 per cent will remain.

“After weathering this crisis, Brisbane is bouncing back strongly and our Budget is about building that momentum,” Schrinner said.

He said infrastructure investment won total $3.6 billion over the next three years, with 86 per cent of budget funding going “directly to the suburbs”.

Included in the infrastructure spend will be $218 million for further work on the Brisbane Metro.

Other projects include a new community centre in Windsor, an upgrade of the historic Hamilton town hall and $11.6 million for a new library at Everton Park.

A sustained community backlash has prompted the return of the city’s kerbside collection from July at a cost of $7.4 million and 12 months ahead of when the council planned.

The council will also extend its 50 per cent cut in outdoor dining fees for another 12 months, which Schrinner said would benefit the city’s hospitality industry and came despite a “massive hit” to council revenue during the pandemic.

“The choice that we made gave us the flexibility necessary to inject direct support into the sectors of our city that were crying out for help,” he said.

“The choices we made are why we can deliver the Budget we have today ”

The budget also includes a $6.6 million community and sport partnership program available to clubs and organisations that have already attracted state and federal government funding for upgrades to facilities but require extra money.

“We cannot afford to let these clubs diminish because of the important ole they have had in weaving communities together,” Schrinner said.

“Demand for community facilities like this have surpassed pre-pandemic levels.”

The budget has also provided funds to trial a FOGO – food organics, garden organics – pilot of waste disposal in green bins.

Transport announcements include a new CityGlider bus service between Hamilton Northshore and Woolloongabba, conditional on state funding, and $4 million for the restoration of three wooden hulled ferries after the fleet of nine had to be withdrawn from service because of structural problems.

This is despite a business case urging the council to permanently decommission all nine boats.

“These ferries are part of modern Brisbane’s history and we want to see them continue to play a role in our city’s future,” Schrinner said.

“These vessels are up to 37 years old, and unlike recreational vessels that get occasional use, they’ve been working hard on the river virtually every day since they entered service.”

However, Schrinner made it clear the axed cross river ferry services will not be returning.

The Labor Opposition leapt on the news that only three of the city’s mono-hulled ferries would return, saying it was confirmation of public transport cuts.

Council Opposition leader Jared Cassidy said the budget also did little to fix the more than 1000 broken footpaths in Brisbane.

“Footpaths hardly rate a mention from Adrian Schrinner because he can’t stick his face on them and he can’t get publicity out of them,” he said.

“This budget is all about Adrian Schrinner’s vanity. He is more interested in himself than the people of Brisbane.”

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri was ejected from the council chamber after disrupting Schrinner’s speech to demand the budget contain more money to tackle homelessness.

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