Port Stephens Council votes in favour of moving ahead with Special Rate Variation

Members of the public who attended last week’s council meeting to oppose the rate rise.
Members of the public who attended last week’s council meeting to oppose the rate rise.


A 7.5% special rate variation has been approved by Port Stephens Council that, according to Mayor Ryan Palmer, will be responsible for $100 million worth of services and infrastructure improvements throughout the council area over the next seven years.

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Before the rate rise comes into effect, approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is required.

The controversial rate rise was approved six votes to two, with West War councillor Ken Jordan and East Ward Councillor Jaime Abbott unable to attend.

The two Councillors who voted against the rate rise were West Ward Councillor Giacomo Arnott, who had been an outspoken opponent of the rate rise since it was first mentioned, and Central Ward Councillor Chris Doohan.

“I believe that many items on the project list are wants, not needs,” Cr Doohan told News Of The Area.

“I personally talked to many in our community about the concept of the Special Rate Variation, and although there was some support in certain areas, I was left with little doubt that our community was not in favour.”

“They are the people that elected me to speak on their behalf, and that is what I did,” he said.

Despite Council initially offering the choice of four options, the third option of a 7.5% increase was the option voted upon during the meeting.

“A moderate rise may have been acceptable to the community if it was less of a financial impact and addressed just the needs, that being Roads, Footpaths and Drainage,” Cr Doohan told News Of The Area.

MAYOR Palmer and five other Councillors felt differently.

“The community has unequivocally told us they want more than we can provide with our current income,” Mayor Palmer said.

“They’ve asked us to deliver an array of community projects and infrastructure and while Council is financially fit, we simply don’t have the resources to deliver the major projects our community wants.”

“Our community deserves more and we are here to move Port Stephens forward,” he said.

Councillor Giacomo Arnott told News Of The Area, “I’m really disappointed that the majority of Councillors have made the decision to smash the ratepayers of Port stephens with a 66% over 7 years rate rise.”

“People are struggling as it is, electricity and water are costing more, insurances are going up and petrol is becoming more expensive.”

“In this environment, we should absolutely not be raising rates,” Cr Arnott said.

“The fight isn’t over yet, early next year, IPART will open submissions and hat is our chance to convince the independent body that this is a rotten idea that will hurt thousands.”

Councillor Arnott said, “Thanks to the thousands of people who made their voice heard on this issue, I appreciate your support and I will continue fighting to have this proposal knocked back.”

IPART will make a decision on the proposed rate rise early next year with Council’s application due by 11 February 2019.


By Rachael VAUGHAN

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