LOCAL Councils are traditionally known as a government entity for rates, roads, and rubbish.
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However, rate payers have increasingly accepted, and demanded, that local councils deliver a much wider range of services.
This change in attitude has grown over the past few decades, as written about by the now former Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) in 2012.
Rate payers commonly now expect their local council to provide sporting grounds and facilities, cultural services, funding for not-for-profit groups, libraries, community award services, recreational facilities, as well as the traditional roads and rubbish type services.
Local councils have also increasingly been involved in political matters outside of their traditional bailiwick, as seen in recent Australia Day citizenship debates and last year’s marriage equality survey.
Port Stephens Council recently released a proposal with four options for a Special Rates Variation (SRV) rates rise program to take place over the next seven years.
With the recent planned but defeated council mergers still fresh in residents’ minds, the news of a rates rise proposal has caused some anxiety in the community.
First term Councillor for the West Ward Mr Giacomo Arnott is leading the populist argument against any rate rise, arguing that, “Council needs to be financially responsible and live within its means.”
Whereas Councillor and Deputy Mayor Mr Chris Doohan is asking residents to look at the bigger picture, telling News Of The Area, “Please seriously consider the benefits as well as the cost.”
“It is critical to understand the whole concept with a balanced view.”
“I have worked very hard to ensure our community gets its fair share of the pie, and succeeded.”
“No one wants to pay more money, we get that.”
“But if we want what you asked for, we have to fund it somehow.”
Councillor Arnott also told News Of The Area, “This proposed massive rate rise is unfair on the people of Port Stephens.”
“Electricity and petrol prices keep going up and up, and wage growth is not keeping up even with the basics.”
“People will really struggle if this rate rise gets through,” Cr Arnott said.
“It’s important that people voice their opinions online or at one of Council’s community information sessions,” Cr Arnott said.
Councillor Doohan said, “The money is equally distributed between all three wards; it is not all going to the Bay.”
“The whole of Port Stephens will prosper equally.”
“It is critical that we get our essentials right, and this will see a massive improvement in our roads.”
“This is top of my priority list.”
“All the projects identified will provide employment and stimulate our economy.”
“This sounds like ‘blah blah blah’, but ask the local people that work on these sort of jobs what it means to them and their families.”
Concerned citizens are invited to attend scheduled community meetings.
Tomaree Rate Payers Association (TRRA) is hosting a public forum on Monday, 6 August, 7pm at the Nelson Bay Bowling Club.
Special Rates Variation meeting dates as follows:
- Karuah RSL, Wednesday 1st August 3pm.
- Club Lemon Tree, Thursday 2nd August 4pm.
- Medowie Community Centre, Saturday 4 August 10am.
- TRRA Public Forum, Nelson Bay Bowling Club, 6 August, 7pm.
- Birubi Point SLSC, 8th August 4pm.
- Port Stephens Council building, 13 August,4pm.
- Seaham School of Arts, 16 August, 4pm.
- Tomaree Library and Community Centre, 18 August, 10am.
By Heather SHARP and Rachael VAUGHAN