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Bad News Day - MidCoast Council Update

tonyhThu, 10/11/2016 - 10:26am

Whilst our Prime Minister gushed and rushed to assure us after the Trump victory on Wednesday evening that "we have so much in common" with our friends in the United States, the MidCoast Council was assuring us that we still have friends in the distant land of Forster.

We were told about visions, missions, engagements, surveys, vucap (a list of very important negative words), models for I, we, me and us. These are some of the things that have been occupying thousands of hours of human resources time for the last few months. Then , of course, there has been preparation for the grand finale in the form of  the inevitable Power Point presentation for the masses. An overwhelming show of figures and diagrams guaranteed to stun the most aggressive audience - like mustard gas or a taser for crowds.  

But you shouldn't worry if, in amongst this lot,  our new Council may have forgotten its prime reason for existence,  i.e. working out  who's  to pay for  this lot. After all, a mountain of fuzzy words, buzz words, consultants' jargon, diagrams, costings, submissions and excuses all come at a pretty high price.

Yes, you guessed it! Several more years  of Special Rate Variations will fix it all up. Oh, and a seemingly indefinite extension to the short term Environmental Levy (not considered as a rate increase, because we're already used to paying it!) This special levy was set up to pay for "protection and improvement of our natural resources" we are told but some of us in the audience barely heard that. We're the ones suffering  hearing loss from the endless hammer and clatter from the bulldozers tearing Fame Mountain to shreds.

At the end, those still surviving in the audience expressed deep concern over the obvious disparities in the cost burdens carried by each of the merged councils - Great Lakes ratepayers being those most penalised. However, this will be  rectified in four years through, would you believe,  "harmonisation" of  the rate systems. The words "made fairer" could have been used instead, but then you get what you are made to pay for.

Tony Hann

comment(s): 1


A former Councillor at the Council Update meeting assured us that the rate increase, for which Council plans to seek approval from IPART, was essentially the same increase as we had already agreed to before the merger. Just a smidgen more.

Our "agreement" back then was on the understanding that the increase in rates would be spent in the Great Lakes region - for example addressing the backlog of maintenance works for Great Lakes' roads and bridges. Things are quite different this time round.

Now we are "one council", the rate money raised, we are told, must be spent in whichever areas of the new Council that need it most. That means the money will be predominantly directed to address the poorer state of the roads and bridges outside the old Great Lakes area. We are being penalised for doing better in the past.

Ex Great Lakes residents have a double whammy because not only will much of their rate money now be spent elsewhere, the average home rate they have to pay is already 14-16% higher than applies in the Gloucester and Manning areas. By government decree, this discrepancy in rates cannot be addressed in the first four years of the Council.

In applying to IPART for a rate increase, the Government requires that the same percentage increase must apply across all areas of the new Council based on the previous rates in the old councils.

In a sense, MidCoast Council is using the environmental levy, which is treated slightly differently by IPART, as a tool to introduce some minor level of "rate harmonisation". The maths were more than a little confusing. This is my take:

Great Lakes previously had a 6% environmental levy. Manning/Taree had a 5% levy. Gloucester had none. MCC want everyone to pay a 6% levy.

MCC is seeking a 28.5% increase (over four years) to apply across the whole of the new Council area but based on the previous rate amount >not< including any environmental levy. That 28.5% though does include the proposed 6% Council-wide levy.

MCC then recalculated the percents based on the previous rates >plus< levy (where it existed).

Including compounding over the four years, the effective rate increases over four years end up as:
Manning region 22.1%
Great Lakes region 20.8%
Gloucester region 28.5%

As a compensation MCC will freeze the waste levy for three years.

The real problem for Great Lakes residents is that we were forced against our will by the State Government into a merger arrangement which is distinctly unfavourable to us. We knew that before the merger took place but nobody took any notice of our protestations. It is another case of either ideology or bravado over-ruling logic and common sense.

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