Richmond Valley ratepayers are facing rate rises of 82 per cent by 2025 if the council’s Fit for the Future application is approved.
Evans Head Residents for Sustainable Development vice president Dr Richard Gates said residents had until 31 July to comment on the application.
The Richmond Valley Council has applied to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to stand alone as a council in the current round of local government amalgamations being pushed by the NSW State government.
Dr Gates said the council’s Fit for the Future application, which is now on public display, covers 711 pages, along with supporting documentation from the State government.
Dr Gates said if ratepayers and residents supported Council’s FFTF they would be supporting above-peg rate rises every year to 2025. When taken together with the current above-peg rises already approved by IPART, rates will rise in Richmond Valley by 82% (see Attachment 2). This is compared with a 35% increase in that time based on a CPI of 2.7%.
Dr Gates said he doubted most people would know what council was proposing and what was about to happen to them.
‘Those on fixed incomes will find it very difficult to make ends meet,’ he said.
‘Council and councillors have not been very forthcoming about the burden they want to impose on this local government area.
‘Council held no public meetings about the big increases in the application. Instead all we got were glossy newsletters telling us what wonderful things council is going to do for us in the future.
‘No mention of how this was going to be paid for. Councillors even didn’t bother to meet with us and tell us how they were about to shaft us.’
Dr Gates also said today that the State government was also reducing dramatically recurrent funding for councils. In the case of Richmond Valley by two thirds to 2025.
‘It is very clear that the State government is pushing more and more of the financial burden for local government infrastructure on to local government and ultimately ratepayers and residents. This is grossly unfair for many reasons.”
‘If Council proves successful in its application it will be given some very painful rewards for ratepayers by the State government including processes for fast-tracking above-peg rates, increased loan funds to borrow with interest for infrastructure, and devolved planning powers to push growth”
Dr Gates said a worrying part of the Fit for the Future process was that Richmond Valley Council could be forced to amalgamate with another council such as Kyogle if the FFTF application was not supported.
‘Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,’ he said.
‘We will be punished with higher rates and charges if we support council’s FFTF application and we will be punished with the additional infrastructure bills of another council if we go with Kyogle plus, potentially, higher rates as well.
‘No real choice at all, and no real dialogue about genuine local government reform.
Dr Gates has urged all ratepayers to make a comment on the application during the exhibition period.