South Ballina residents are up in arms at plans to double the annual ferry charges.
They say the hike will have a ‘crippling effect’ on residents living in Wardell, Patches Beach, Empire Vale, South Ballina and Keith Hall.
In a letter inviting Ballina shire councillors to a meeting next Saturday, spokesperson Jenny Adler said the rate rise was ‘unprecedented’ and follows years of community concern about the operation of the ferry.
Ms Adler said most families had two or more cars for family members or business purposes, and the ‘doubling’ of the ferry charges would cause considerable hardship.
In her letter, Ms Adler holds no punches, accusing the council of being ‘indifferent, wasteful ad inefficient.
She said a two month audit conducted by the South Ballina Community Association had revealed alleged anomalies in regards to the number of users quoted by the council.
‘From the ‘counts’ of casual ‘pay as you go’ trips and annual ticket holders on the ferry, the statistics seemed to reflect that the ferry costs were well covered by the number and types of payments of cars that we observed during the audit,’ she said.
‘There is no inference of any wrong doing by the ferry drivers per se, as casual users were observed paying and receiving receipts.
‘The discrepancy lies in the observably income versus the reported income;
Ms Adler said the figures collected by the group, if extrapolated over a 12 month period, the ferry was making more money than claimed by the council.
She said members of the ‘ferry sub-committee’ of the South Ballina Community Association had been denied access to the ferry accounts, and requests for meetings had been refused.
Others concerns raised in the letter to councillors are that there is no disaster or replacement plan for the ferry, and ongoing problems with the solar-powered gates on the ferry.
‘Council has not acted well or acted without self-interest in relation to the management of the ferry,’ she said.
‘Despite a request by the community to have the ferry put into the hands of a community-managed ferry trust, so that all these issues could be addressed, no response has ever been received.
‘Council has actually blocked our ward representative from attending ferry meetings.
Ms Adler said residents living on the south side of the river had been neglected for years.
‘At no time in the history of the South Ballina area has any Section 94 developer contributions been apportioned to the community: not one cent for sports fields, playgrounds, community meeting space, bike paths etc.
‘We are being ripped off.’
The meeting will be held at 3pm on Saturday, 23rd May at the Empire Vale School Library.