Richmond Valley Council (RVC) has announced it will increase its rates by almost 40 per cent in the next five years, leading a prominent council-watcher to call for the LGA to be broken up.
Richard Gates, who edits the Valley Watchdog blog, said IPART’s approval of a 39.1 per cent increase to RVC rates over the next five years will force those living near the coast to consider an application for a boundary change.
‘The IPART-approved rate increase punishes those living at the coast with a much higher rate burden than those who live further inland with much lower property values,’ Dr Gates said.
‘The new rates regime in combination with all the other charges will mean that a residential ratepayer with an unimproved capital property value (UCV) of $100,000 will be paying $300 more per annum than a Ballina ratepayer with the same property value,’ he added.
‘The problem is made even worse by the fact that the Richmond Valley Council is much more socially disadvantaged by any index you care to name than Ballina which has a lower rates burden.’
According to NATSEM figures, 19.15 per cent of Richmond Valley households live below the poverty line compared with the national average of 11.8 per cent and 14.7 per cent for Ballina.
The number of households in rental stress is 41.5 per cent compared with 33 per cent for Ballina, the figures show.
Council welcomes decision
But Richmond Valley mayor Ernie Bennett welcomed the IPART’s decision, saying the approved rate rise would allow the council to increase funding to help attack the infrastructure backlog, fund part of its expanded capital works program and improve its financial sustainability.
‘The community can be reassured that all money generated through this rates increase will be used to make our local government area a better place to live,’ Cr Bennett said.
RVC’s GM John Walker said the additional funds would be allocated towards roads, Council-owned and managed facilities and parks, riverfront improvements in Casino, Coraki and Woodburn, as well as Evans Head CBD improvements, replacement of children’s playground equipment, additional car parking, town entrance signage and cultural and art facilities.
Mr Walker said independent experts had warned the cost of ageing infrastructure would be a much greater burden on the community if the council was unable to spend money on immediate and continuing renewal works.
IPART ‘out of touch’
Dr Gates accused IPART of being ‘out of touch’, especially in the context of the recent federal budget which he said ‘will disproportionately impose on those least able to pay’.
He added that given ‘the Casino-dominated council and IPART [are] not prepared to listen to the concerns of ratepayers at the coast who carry and have carried for some time a disproportionate rates burden’ it was time for the state government to step in and ‘carve up Richmond Valley, with the coastal part of the council with concerns and issues similar to Ballina going to Ballina, and the rest to Lismore or Kyogle’.