IPART has received 685 submission from Port Stephens residents, the majority of which are objecting to the increase citing a range of reasons including the lack of benefits to residents from the proposed projects to be funded, financial hardship and above average unemployment rates in Port Stephens.
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The Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association’s submission to IPART called for attention to be given to the regions poor as the regions household income sits below state averages, “There are more poor people: 23.2% of Port Stephens households have a gross weekly income of less than $650, compared to 19.7% of all NSW households (ibid).”
Port Stephens Council’s ambitious plan to increase rates is certainly controversial.
One anonymous submission to IPART said, “In my opinion the council management lack direction and are entitlement driven.
“Staff are blessed with over generous working conditions including free daily fresh fruit and other meals (some ratepayers can’t afford fresh fruit ).
“Staff are paid $15000 per year on top of their generous wage to supply their own vehicle , most staff only use their vehicle to and from work .”
A Stark’s submission stated “Neither the SRV nor the $65M Tomaree Sports Complex were part of the current Mayor’s platform at the last council election.”
Another anonymous submission simply stated in one line, “I strongly object to the proposed rate rise over 7 years.”
R Jansen’s submission was detailed and saw some merits in the proposed programs but the introduction “I put on record my absolute refusal to accept the need for the proposed SRV…” concisely says it all.
Another anonymous submission from a person owning multiple properties also objected to the rate rise commenting on
Infrastructure including Roads and General Services offered by Port Stephens Council, and other Authorities said, “I am pleased to say that I am generally satisfied with the above, and in particular with the Port Stephens Council to this point in time.”
Another anonymous application addressed the topic of current Council management stated “The process the Council have been using for ‘a long time now’ is not ‘lean and mean’ but prudent.”
Bruce Mackenzie’s public submission called for a face to face meeting as he believes he is the most qualified person to state the case against a rate rise for Port Stephens.
News Of The Area’s submission showed the online poll results with 650 votes recorded.
“Over 90% have said “no” to the Rate Rise that is proposed, around 10 have said “Yes” to the Rate Rise that is proposed.”
Another submission stated, “I support the SRV in principle because it will allow our towns in Port Stephens to be renewed and upgraded.”
Of those few positive applications there were qualification such as “While I agree with PSSC that we need an increase to residential rates to provide further amenities to our area, I am very concerned on the effect that the variation will have on our small commercial districts.”
Submissions refer to the SRV as “ridiculous” and wasteful with Council spending unnecessarily on legal matters.
The overall theme of the submissions from the community is that they do not want the rate increase.
The matter is now before IPART for a determination.
IPART will determine the fate of Port Stephens family household finances mid-May.
Councillor Arnott who has been vocal in his opposition to the SRV, told News Of The Area, “This could mean the difference for some families in sending their children to school with lunch or providing them with new shoes.
“97% of over 500 submissions on the IPART website are opposed to this rate increase.
“That says to me that as people learn more about this rotten proposal, they are turning against it – and with good reason,” he said.
Councillor Tucker said, “Port Stephens rates are the lowest in the Hunter.
“A rise is inevitable at some stage.
“The council has won state and national awards for efficiency and work practices. This means there is not much fat left to cut and that residents are getting good value for their rates.
“Residents and visitors complain that our roads and community facilities aren’t as good as other places in the hunter – particularly Newcastle and Maitland, they want them improved,” he said.
By Marian SAMPSON