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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Dey pushes for new minimum Byron rate against warnings of rate bracket creep

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Duncan Dey (Greens). Photo supplied

A new proposed flat minimum rate across the Byron Shire aimed at easing pressure in the housing market would put 238 residential properties in higher rates brackets.

Council staff have revealed the modelling in response to a Greens-led motion with backing from Labor Councillor Asren Pugh for this week’s ordinary meeting.

Cr Duncan Dey and Pugh’s proposed flat minimum rate of $1,000 comes as council staff continue to receive feedback from the public on a proposed minimum of $1,014 via the council’s Draft Operational Plan and Budget 2023 to 2024.

Councillors last month voted to put the draft plan and budget on public display for feedback for 28 days.

Cr Pugh was absent from the vote and has since seconded a motion from Cr Dey for this week’s meeting, to be held live in Mullumbimby’s chambers, streamed online and recorded for public access later.

The councillors have suggested the new minimum flat rate of $1,000 be considered after a review of public submissions for application across the shire in time for the upcoming financial year.

To peg or not to peg: minimum rate arbitary

Crs Dey and Pugh also want the flat rate considered for budgets beyond the next, with Cr Dey confirming via email late last week he would slightly change the wording of the motion published online to better emphasise the consideration aspect.

The proposed flat rate is $31, or 4%, more than last year’s minimum rate of $969.

It’s also $14, or 1%, less than the rate proposed in the draft budget of $1,014.

But perhaps more significantly, it is less than the 4.6% increase approved rate peg for the Byron Shire Council from the agency in charge, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

In staff notes on the notice of motion (NOM) for this week’s meeting, they say the council has historically increased minimum rates each year in accordance with IPART rate peg approvals.

Staff presented a report to council staff last month comparing the potential of their suggested minimum of $1,014, based on the approved rate peg from IPART, to last year’s minimum rate.

But, as Cr Dey points out in his NOM, the minimum rate is ultimately arbitrary and at the council’s discretion, within applicable state law.

238 properties would suffer rates bracket-creep

The staff proposal, approved for public exhibition last month by the council and recommended again by staff this month in response to Cr Dey’s motion, is included in a general land rates structure published in the council’s Draft Operational Plan and Budget 2023 to 2024.

The associated documents are available for public feedback until the 29th of May.

Staff say reducing the proposed minimum rate won’t reduce the amount of general land rates the council collects overall and will only impact residential rates thanks to what could be likened to so-called ‘bracket creep’.

Staff modelling showed the motion from Crs Dey and Pugh would effectively cast more than 3% of Byron Shire properties into a higher rates category, with 238 properties no longer deemed eligible for the minimum rate.

The council, staff have explained in notes accompanying Cr Dey’s notice of motion, has the right to adjust how properties are categorised in terms of land values.

Reducing the proposed minimum rate by $14 would trigger a ‘slight revision upwards of the ad valorem rate’, council staff notes read.

The increase in deemed minimum land values in terms of official categories would especially impact the residential category, staff said, adding that what was proposed would ‘have no impact on the business and farmland categories as the change is small’.

No ‘sweet spot’ for minimum rate, says Cr Dey

Cr Dey referred to costs of living and a declared housing crisis in his argument for the minimum rate increase.

‘During a cost of living crisis like we are facing now, it is reasonable to ask those with higher land values to contribute a little more while taking some pressure off those who can least afford the extra cost,’ Cr Dey wrote, ‘this minor change will feed back into the housing market’.

Responding to the staff modelling, Cr Dey told The Echo the arbitrary nature of the minimum rate meant there was no ‘sweet spot’, or amount ‘to aspire towards’.

‘This is not the best instrument that Australia has for redistributing wealth away from its current imbalance,’ Cr Dey wrote via email, ‘but it is available to Council, at our sole discretion’.

‘I accept that some investors will benefit but the principle remains strong.’


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1 COMMENT

  1. So , let me get this right.

    “more than 3% of Byron Shire properties into a higher rates category, with 238 properties no longer deemed eligible for the minimum rate.’

    Would these lowest valued properties in the shire also house the lowest economic residents in Byron?

    Extra rates will be more expense for them, either directly or indirectly via rent increases.

    Meanwhile, the most expensive properties would save a few dollars, which they would barely notice.

    Perhaps Green’s Cr Dey may comment?

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