NSW land tax bill fuels fallout over the bypass

A CROSS-border political firestorm sparked by Queensland's refusal to pay a NSW government tax bill for the new Tugun bypass is set to get hotter. Queensland is likely to get council rates bills as well.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is refusing to pay an "insulting" $235,000 NSW land tax bill for properties it bought as part of the $543 million project which is set to open in two weeks' time.

About four kilometres of the seven-kilometre bypass are located in NSW.

Ms Bligh has accused NSW Office of State Revenue of having "more front than a Mack truck" after sending the bill, because she says "the NSW government did not contribute one red cent to the Tugun bypass, which helps their residents as much as Queenslanders".

But she is in for a second shock, with Tweed Shire Council revealing yesterday it may continue sending rates bills because some of the properties might still have buildings on them.

Council officers will today check exactly which blocks the Queensland government purchased. Some included residential property in Honeysuckle Street, West Tweed, where flats were demolished.

"It would come down to what they are doing with the properties," said the council's director of technology and corporate services Troy Green.

"If they knocked them down, it's operational land and they don't need to pay rates.

"But if they have still got houses on them and are leasing them out, yes, it would be rateable," Mr Green said.

He said state road authorities often bought properties if they were worried nearby residents would complain about noise.

"If they are using water, sewerage service and garbage collection services, we need to collect rates to maintain those services." The Queensland Department of Main Roads bought 16 properties in the Tweed Shire between 2001 till 2006 for the bypass project.

The NSW Office of State Revenue issued the bill to the Queensland government on May 6, asking for the payment for five years worth of land-tax assessments.

The NSW Chief Commissioner of State Revenue Tony Newbury has said Queensland can pay up in three instalments of $78,535.80 over the next three months.

Failure to pay will attract an extra interest bill based on an interest rate of "14.37 per cent per annum calculated daily".

With just days to go until the first State of Origin rugby league clash in Sydney, Ms Bligh has declared:

"I don't expect the Maroons to give an inch to the New South Wales Blues this week, and I don't intend to either."

Of the $543 million it cost to build the controversial bypass, the federal government contributed $120 million and Queensland paid the rest, with Ms Bligh claiming $380 million -- or 70 per cent -- was spent in NSW.

Official sources yesterday suggested one way around the problem would simply be for Queensland to donate the land back to the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority -- which would not have to pay land tax to the NSW government.

State MP for Tweed Geoff Provest suggested "a little bit of commonsense would go a long way".

"This sounds like bureaucracy gone mad," he said.



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