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Byron Shire
May 18, 2022

Byron’s rate hike makes it even more unaffordable

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Byron Shire Council has now submitted to the state government to pursue a 33.5 per cent permanent rate rise across the shire.

This resulted from a vote achieved by a coalition of convenience between all non-Labor councillors. Myself and Jan Hackett both voted against a rate rise.

An extensive and expensive community consultation was undertaken on the premise it was to inform the decision making. With such an outcome I now consider the consultation process to be a mere tick box exercise.

Having been put through the council consultation wringer and having your opinions put out to dry you may be feeling a little bit peeved off. You may want to ask councillors a few pertinent questions.

Why was the overwhelming community view ignored? How much did the consultation process cost ratepayers? And, what happens if the state government rejects the proposal as just an extravagant money grab by an unimaginative local council?

I voted against the rate rise because I do not  believe it is a sound financial proposition to place the burden of council’s infrastructure backlog on the already over stretched household budgets of our residents.

We live in one of the most unaffordable shires in Australia. This just made it a lot worse for a whole lot of people.

From council’s own figures tourists cause up to 30% of the infrastructure expense while residents and farmers pay over 80% of all council rates. There is a clear imbalance here.

Council needs to consider a different financial plan to get out of this backlog mess that has been created by successive councils. This will become particularly relevant if the state government rejects the rate proposal.

Byron Labor has been a vocal voice against rate rises over the last couple of months. On this basis I propose the following:

1. Increase parking fees in Byron Bay to $4 an hour;

2. Increase parking fees on beach front locations to $5 an hour such as Main Beach and Wategos;

3. Introduce parking fees in limited areas of Brunswick Heads and Bangalow;

4. Ensure that properties used as short term accommodation (i.e. holiday let or AirBnB) for more than three months of the year are classified in the business rate;

5. Increase the commercial rate share progressively from 19.5% to 25% over the next three years;

6. Utilise council’s loan borrowing capacity over a 25 year period to finance the construction of new long term infrastructure;

7. Stop the proposed sale of valuable land assets and create new ongoing revenue streams for council, e.g. develop a regional storage shed facility on vacant council land in the Byron Industrial Estate.

8. Propose an amendment to the Local Government Act to enable a Tourism Levy to be applied to the 2 million tourists who now visit the shire with an aim to raise an additional $2 million per year.

9. Revise the membership of council’s Finance Committee to include outside expertise with an aim to broaden the skill base overseeing council finances.

10. Identify appropriate public/private partnerships to finance council’s ongoing plans for the development of the shire’s towns and villages as expressed in the numerous master plans being developed.

This is a financial plan to address the shortcomings of a council that needs to adopt smarter fiscal wisdom in the years ahead rather than just pulling the rates trigger.

Unlike the current proposal it is not a plan to drive low income residents out of the shire.

Cr Paul Spooner, Byron Bay

 


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8 COMMENTS

  1. The State Government can reject the rate rise proposal, or reduce it. It has happened before, even to this Council a few years back. I urge everyone to send submissions to this effect to the regulator IPART via their website [email protected] before the 13th of March.

  2. As a green I was very disappointed by the vote for the 33%? rate rise. Watching my councillors adopting a hairy-chested stance pretending to themselves they were being ‘responsible’ and ‘courageous’ in the face of community opposition was sad.
    The rise will severely disadvantage the few remaining low-income ratepayers in the shire while doing little to fix the fiscal problem – they were gamed again by the GM.
    There is no way local government, as currently constituted, can exist on rate revenue and random grants. This was the time to take a stand against state tyranny and demand the right to tax and levy in the ways Paul Spooner has suggested.
    The Greens have merely reaffirmed the status quo til next time and the infrastructure will continue to degrade.

  3. Paul, whilst I agree we need to have tourists contribute more to our council coffers in my opinion the best way to do that is via a tourist based tax. But that’s all too hard for Council and so they pick the low laying fruit; Paid Parking.

    I am an advocate of paid parking in Byron as it is largely a tax on tourists and personally I think Byron’s beaches are so spectacular that who would begrudge a few buck to sit on the white sands and swim in pristine oceans. However the council better stop regarding Bangalow as a tourist town and start to think of it as a rural community. We do not rely on tourism as our livelihood and a part from a couple of lovely shops we have nothing to offer tourists in the same way as Byron or even Bruns for that matter. So if you think this community will accept any paid parking of any description you better think again.

    Paid parking for Bangalow is a tax on it’s residents in the very same way a rate rise is. Try something new and seek some community input before your council imposes its grubby cash grab on a rural community that doesn’t want it nor deserve it.

  4. NOW IS THE TIME to WRITE a SUBMISSION to IPART:
    As a result of the meeting, Council resolved to apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a special rate variation of 7.5 per cent per year on the ordinary general land rate, for the next four years.

    The 7.5 per cent increase includes the rate peg. It does not apply to water, waste, stormwater and sewer charges. At the end of the four year period, the special rate variation increase would be built into the rate base and permanently retained.

    The final decision for the proposed increase will be made by IPART and announced in May 2017.

    Should IPART grant approval, the new rates will come into effect from 1 July, 2017.

    Council’s Special Rate Variation application will be submitted by the 13 February. Interested people can review the application on-line (from 13 February) and make a submission to IPART by the 13 March.

    IPART website: https://www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/Home/Industries/Local-Government

  5. The website is a bit confusing
    WHAT COUNCIL MUST SHOW:
    Councils need to show IPART there is:

    community awareness of their plans
    a demonstrated need for higher increases to charges
    a reasonable impact on ratepayers
    a sustainable financing strategy
    a history of well-documented council productivity improvements

    In addition to council’s evidence, we will assess any other information we consider relevant, including letters from ratepayers.

    Council information page at this link
    https://www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/Home/Industries/Local-Government/Reviews/Special-Variations-Minimum-Rates/Special-Variations-Minimum-Rates-2017-18?qDh=2&cid=30a6ec22-87f4-45f7-9285-1485df9a6811

    TO MAKE A SUBMISSION:
    Submissions links will be available with the applications once they are published to our website. In the meantime, those wishing to make a submission can write to
    [email protected].

  6. Raising $1 per visitor is not enough. We need more than $20 per visitor per day. I propose a local $20 Byron Shire token to raise infrastructure funds, support local traders and seed social benefit projects. 40% of funds raised from sale of Tokens to be reserved for token refunds to AUD at the local credit unions via account deposit and a 10% fee.

  7. the problem with living in an area that is beautiful, friendly and close to transport (international planes from Goldcoast, Brisbane), is that other people want to visit… and move there.
    We live in a global market and compared to major cities in Australia, and around the world, Byron is cheap – even with a rate rise.
    Call it a two-speed economy, call it globalisation, any way, Byron will continue to be part of the global market and receive visitors frequently who have incomes far in excess of the national average. This can be good and bad and again, it’s a reality that we can either accept or … cry poor until a careless government (voted for by… the people) changes their priorities.

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