Richmond Valley ratepayers have until the close of business today (Monday, 24 March) to lodge objections to a planned rate rise of more than 40 per cent over five years.
Some residents say they were not given enough notice for public meetings on the issue which they say were hastily put together.
Richmond Valley Council (RVC) voted unanimously last month to increase rates by 12.3 per cent, well above the NSW rate peg, followed by four annual increases of 5.3 per cent.
The council is one of 32 across the state applying to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for the increase but Dr Richard Gates, president of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome committee, says it has not only ‘failed to make a convincing argument for the rise’ but hardly consulted with ratepayers.
Dr Gates says there was ‘virtually no notice’ of the recent public meeting at which around 16 people attended.
He told ABC radio that most ratepayers didn’t know about the meeting yet council concluded that because not many people had shown up, they supported the rate rise.
In its appliction, RVC described the rises as ‘modest’ and said ‘that the majority of Richmond Valley Council residents requested it be approved in total’.
Dr Gates said only 16 people turned up at RVC’s community consultation meetings at Casino and Evans Head last December to discuss the Special Rates Variation.
He said Council claimed in its application to IPART that ‘the poor turnout may have been a reflection of approval for Council’s plans’ but he suggested the real reason for low attendance was the obscure nature of advertising and timing of the meetings.
He says the rate rise, the third highest of the 32 shires applying to IPART, was unjustified.
‘There is little doubt Richmond Valley Council has lots of roads and bridges to manage over a large area but the small ratepayer base needs to stop being blamed and punished for this problem, particularly when the state occupies so much of the land and pays no rates,’ he said.
The rates submissions, closing today, will be determined by IPART by mid June.