OPINION: Bellingen rate increase

DEAR News Of The Area,

IN 2014 Bellingen Shire Council held some information nights drawing attention to the sad state of council’s roads and bridges with three rate options.

The many photos of ‘ugly’ roads and rotten timber bridges displayed were council’s reason for applying for rate increases of up to eight percent.

This display highlighted to me the lack of maintenance and the neglect and/or mismanagement over many years by Council.

Council stated that timber bridges had a life expectancy of 60 years, but a concrete replacement had a usable life expectancy of 100 years.

IPART approved an increase of six percent for four years starting in 2015 which compounded into almost 30 percent over the four years.

Of the photos and graphs displayed at the information nights, I have seen very little improvement to the streets labelled ‘urgent’ or ‘needing attention’.

I do see that the rotten, single lane timber bridge at Newry Island has been replaced, by a single lane timber bridge, with a higher arch which allows increased height for boats, but restricts visibility for car drivers crossing the bridge.

Council must believe there are more boats going under the bridge than vehicles going over it.

The NSW government has allocated $500 million for the Fixing Country Bridges Program and $543 million for Fixing Country Roads Program, of which I believe Bellingen Shire Council will receive $12 million.

But they want more from property owners who are already paying exorbitant rates in many cases.

At the recent ‘drop in session’ at Urunga a gentleman entered the building and the lady on the front desk asked if she could help him, the gentleman stated he was here to find out how much his rates would increase.

The council assistant said “It is only about $2 per week on average”.

The gentleman said “that’s over a hundred dollars a year”.

Council assistant said “no, it is not that much”.

Lets hope she wasn’t the Council’s finance manager as she couldn’t multiply 2 x 52 and get 104.

If IPART approves a special rate increase, is it likely that shortly afterwards council employees will get a pay rise and Councillors will vote themselves an allowance increase?

Higher rates = higher rents = more homeless.


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