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Byron Shire
April 14, 2021

Ballina wants rate rise to pay for pools

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Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool will be redeveloped, along with Alstonville's pool, if a rate rise is approved. (image Ballina shire council)
Ballina Memorial Swimming Pool will be redeveloped, along with Alstonville’s pool, if a rate rise is approved. (Image: Ballina Shire Council)

Darren Coyne

Ballina Shire Council will embark on a major consultation with residents around its plan to raise rates by 5.5 per cent for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The council aims to raise $4 million in loans for the redevelopment of the Alstonville and Ballina swimming pools.

The council’s proposal is for two increases of 2.5 per cent on top of the standard rate-pegging figure, which is expected to be 3 per cent.

The extra money from the rate rise would be used to repay loans.

This means council will be applying for a 5.5 per cent increase for both years, with the increases remaining throughout the 15 years of the life of the loans.

Councillors last week voted unanimously for a community engagement strategy to satisfy a requirement from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which determines rate variations.

Cr Ben Smith moved, in accordance with a staff recommendation, to proceed with the community engagement strategy.

The strategy will include: fact sheets; information on the council’s website; letters to residents; advertising; a community survey; public meetings in Ballina and Alstonville; and meetings with key stakeholders.

‘Hopefully this [pool redevelopment] will address some of the losses we have with the pools,’ Cr Smith said.

‘This rate variation makes sense,’ he said.

The council also authorised general manager Paul Hickey to begin a tender process to select a consultant to assist with the pools’ redevelopment.

The consultant will be engaged to ‘determine how council will get best value for its monies and to ensure we are planning for where swimming pools are heading in the 21st century’.

The council has budgeted $200,000 to engage a consultancy firm to assist with the redevelopment of the pools.

Councilors heard that the funding had been sourced from the property reserves.

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  1. It’s time to call a halt to these enormous rates hikes by Ballina Council. I wonder how many of the councillors actually own their own homes and how many rent. Mayor Wright, Councillor Smith, do you pay rates or rent?

    Well, I might as well rent instead of own, as my rates now cost me $80 a week for the priveledge of living in Ballina Shire, and being on the south side of the river where I get nothing for it.

    Every week I have to trundle my wheelie bin 800 metres to the pick up point. The Council makes me repair and maintain 550 metres of public gravel road, yet it licenses its use to the horse ranch for a fee! I have to slash the grass road verges because the Council employee has been instructed not to mow there. I have got no footpaths south of the river, no sports fields, no pubs, no shops and I have to pay through the nose annually for the use of the ferry to take me to town.

    There isn’t even a councillor south of the ferry to look after residents needs since Felschie went.

    Where do my rates go? For a start there is the exhorbitant salary being paid to the Shire’s General Manager which is only a whisker short of what the Prime Minister gets, not to mention the senior staff who collectively are paid $1million out of the annual budget.

    I don’t swim in the ocean, don’t swim in a public swimming pool, and I am too scared to ride my motorbike to town in case I get skittled.

    So where is the “user pays” principle for the swimming pools? I know a previous Mayor uses the Alstonville pool, but why am I, a ratepayer who receives no benefit, being asked to pay for other people’s leisure activities?

    Look at the great White Elephant of a community centre at Lennox Head where I can play tiddly winks, but that’s about it! No basketball, no baseball, no netball, because someone in Council signed off the design without checking the requirements for proposed activities.

    The Mayor read a 20 page speech from a plastic folder when he recently opened the Ballina Aero Club building. It was all about “spend, spend, spend” and how the Council was going to construct a new road to the airport which just happens to be right beside the Harvey Norman complex! Don’t tell me Mr Harvey had a hand in demanding this new road so his development could be more attractive to shoppers and tenants?
    Forget the new road to the airport and use the money for the pools instead.

    Wigmore Arcade has lost most of its tenants and for the past 18 months only peppercorn rents have been charged to arts & crafts people. The two cafes – Shelleys on the Beach and what was Pelican 181 – have been shut for 18 months too.

    The loss of rents from commercial activities in Ballina Shire is phenomenal. Wigmore Arcade used to earn us $300,000+ per annum and now it earns us virtually nothing. Then there’s the whopping power problem at the surf club with generators running in the street to keep it all going.

    The Council General Manager hired a Commercial Services Manager at great cost to handle all the in-house developments, so the Council must keep developing to keep the poor man in a job.

    Now let’s look at the airport. Lismore has had a $20million offer to purchase their airport, so Ballina has to copy cat. But do we want to sell or rent Ballina airport to a freight company like the large American conglomerate, DHL? Do we want cargo planes coming and going all night while we want to sleep?

    Would you want to invest in Ballina Shire and be harrassed like the owners of Seabreeze Caravan Park? I’ve had the same Council staff members out on my place with mobile phone cameras invading my privacy.

    It’s about time we held a real ratepayers meeting and thrashed a few of these things out instead of succumbing to yet another rate increase. We need to start at the top and ask why the General Manager was given a pay rise in excess of his contract.

    I’ve had my say!! Now it’s your turn!!

    Margaret Howes
    320 Moylans Lane
    Empire Vale 2478.

  2. So…council wants to raise our rates by 11 % over two years – This seems a little steep. Spend the $200,000.00 consultancy fee on the upgrade or sell some council owned properties to cover the the redevelopment costs or increase admission costs to the pools. While you are at it, sell Wigmore Arcade to a developer – this to avoid the inevitable rate increase needed to fund council’s redevolopment costs for the arcade – or have we already had this increase. I’m confused and broke and cannot afford further rate rises.

    I am against thisrate increase.

  3. I certainly can not afford higher rates. Council needs to manage our money better. Why are there no solar panels on all Council owned buildings to save money on electricity? Why is every light left on all day and night in the Kentwell Community Centre?

    It does not make sense to borrow money and then our rates go on interest payments.

  4. I am against this rate increase. 11% rate rise….absolutely ridiculous…we already pay higher rates than Mosman in Sydney. $200,000 for a consultant to tell council how to spend money?????? This is insanity, you either know what needs to be fixed or it doesn’t need fixing. Maybe some of the huge Council workforce and inhouse engineers could actually do some of this work????? I agree with David, use the consultancy fee and sell some assets to cover needs.

  5. Someone should check out how Coffs Harbour redeveloped their pool. You get a facility design expert to prepare a brief as to what the sites requires then go to tender based on a “Design and Construct” contract. That way all designs and offers can be compared by Council and the community. The best offer and value for money wins and guess what – you just saved $200,000 on consultants who may not know what they are
    doing. Heavens knows, Council must have a filing cabinet full of reports on the two pools conducted over the years. [Interest declared as the contractor who redeveloped Coffs Harbour and many other Council pool sites across the state].


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