Port Macquarie-Hastings Council approves controversial rate freeze for 2024/25

PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council has approved a 0.0 percent rate peg for the 2024/25 Operational Plan, rejecting a council staff recommendation of a 4.6 percent rate increase.

Significant debate unfolded in Council’s 20 June meeting, where Mayor Peta Pinson moved the motion for the rate freeze, which was seconded by Councillor Adam Roberts.

“Less than one percent of our population responded through the engagement process,” stated Mayor Pinson in the meeting.

“What this tells me is that the community is happy with the decisions this Council is making.

“I’m making my decision clear today to freeze rates based on an understanding of how our community is financially faring,” the Mayor said.

Councillor Roberts supported the motion, emphasising the low rate of community engagement.

“You’d have to assume that the community is happy for us to make decisions on their behalf,” he said.

“Yes, we are driving a rate freeze because we have the money to deal with that.

“We are spending record amounts on infrastructure.”

However, not all councillors agreed with the motion.

Councillor Rachel Sheppard voiced strong opposition, questioning the decision to disregard community feedback and expert advice.

“It’s very hard for me to understand how we can completely disregard the feedback of the community on this,” she said.

“If we proceed with the motion on the table, this represents ignoring community engagement, risk assessments, subject matter expertise, and independent financial advice,” Cr Sheppard argued.

Cr Sheppard then moved an amendment to defer the item to an extraordinary council meeting before June 30 2024, to reconsider the 4.6 percent rate peg.

This amendment was supported by councillors Edwards, Intemann, and Lipovac.

Cr Lipovac noted that 77 percent of respondents in the engagement process did not support a rate freeze, highlighting the need to follow community advice.

Despite the support, the amendment was lost with Mayor Pinson and councillors Roberts, Maltmann and Slade voting against it.

The original motion for the 0.0 percent rate freeze was carried with Mayor Pinson and councillors Roberts, Maltmann, and Slade voting in favour, while Councillors Sheppard, Edwards, Intemann and Lipovac opposed.

The Mayor used her casting vote to break the tie and carry the motion.


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