Balancing cost of living pressures with the need to deliver critical projects

Cairns Regional Council has delivered a measured and responsible budget that is mindful of cost-of-living pressures and provides relief for some of the city’s most vulnerable ratepayers.

The record $669 million budget focuses on key services and improving connectivity and liveability, with significant investment through a $383 million capital works program that includes a sizeable allocation for water security.

Council has also expanded its pensioner rate subsidies amid a rates and charges increase of 6.7 per cent in the 2024/25 financial year.

Cairns Mayor Amy Eden said the budget had a strong focus on efficient service delivery.

“This is not the budget of my dreams, it is a business-as-usual budget, and a budget that was 90% developed and locked in by the previous council by the time we were elected,” Cr Eden said.

“In redeveloping what we could with this budget, we also focused on the ‘little big things’ that will make a difference to our community’s most vulnerable and get us back to the basics our people most urgently need.

“For example, the pensioner rate subsidies have been expanded under the updated policy. The subsidy offered to pensioner ratepayers will be increased to $320 per year, with eligibility criteria widened to provide cost-of-living relief to 1200 more households than last year, through pro-rating of part-eligible households.”

Previously, the subsidy amount did not increase in line with rate rises and the eligibility criteria required all ratepayers on the title to be pension card holders.

There is also $3 million allocated to new footpaths, up from $1 million in last year’s budget, and a significant increase in funding to ensure our parks and open spaces live up to community expectations.

“It’s the little things that are big things,” Cr Eden said.

Cr Eden said the record capital works program includes $217.7 million for Cairns Water Security Stage 1 (CWSS1) – the biggest infrastructure project undertaken by Council.

“This is Council’s largest ever project and is vitally important to safeguard the city’s drinking water into the next decade and ensure our future prosperity,” she said.

“I would like to thank the State Government for announcing $195 million in the budget last week, but additional funding from the Federal Government is still needed to fully realise this project without hitting the back pockets of our community.”

Residential water usage charges will increase by 13 cents per kilolitre and commercial water usage charges by 14 cents per kilolitre.

To address the challenges with city parking, encourage the use of off-street parking and free up on-street parking, Council will reduce the hourly fee at the Lake Street carpark to $1.50 an hour (down from $2.10 an hour), capped at $10 per day.

A daily rate of $6 will also be introduced at the Grafton Street carpark.

Parking fees in Cairns will increase by 10 cents an hour from 1 July 2024 to $2.20 an hour, with centre median parking across the CBD to remain free, but time limited.

/Public Release. View in full here.