Community News

2,500 say ‘no’ to rate hike

Yamba pensioners, Marie Boler (right) and Vicki Micallef, collected 400 of the 2,500 signatures in Clarence Forum’s petition against the proposed special rate variation. Pic: Geoff Helisma
Online community action group, The Clarence Forum, has lodged a 2,500-signature petition with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which calls “upon IPART to refuse the Special Rate Variation [SRV] sought by Clarence Valley Council”. The group has also lodged an electronic petition signed by 230 people. The forum’s convenor, John Hagger, said around 30 people had collected signatures from across the valley over the past month. Some supportive businesses in different towns and villages around the valley allowed petitions to be located at their stores, too. Mr Hagger thanked some of the petitioners in a post on the forum’s Facebook page. “Overall, we have done well,” he wrote. “Amanda Glen was brilliant. Amanda personally picked up 900 signatures from People and Shops. “Marie Yamba and Vicki and their long hot days collecting 400 were fantastic. “Many thanks also to Greg Moore for the nearly 200 which he personally delivered. “To All the shops (especially Bob Little and SPAR Maclean and Harry from Reimer’s at South and Teresa and Nigel at CrabbaJacks Grafton) who helped by giving up space on their counters: Thank You. “And to all the People who collected a few pages or just a few signatures, Thank You. “Every signature brought us closer to stopping Council’s Ridiculous Rates Increase which will bring further harm to Our Valley’s Economy and the People Council is meant to be representing.” Yamba residents, pensioners Marie Boler and Vicki Micallef, said that most of the people they approached signed the petition. “People were very nice,” Ms Boler said. “Some people who rent said they weren’t interested. I said, ‘that’s alright’; then I said, ‘if the rates go up, then the rent will go up’. “Some of them signed, some didn’t.” As for her personal motivation, she said she would not be able to afford the proposed rate hike. “I live on a pension on a very strict budget,” she said, “and if the rates go up, everything else goes up, my budget goes up as well. “As I said to the mayor, ‘I get to a point where if my family is visiting, I can’t offer them dinner’.” Ms Micallef said she would find it difficult to make ends meet, having to pay a mortgage and other regular bills, and that she had only met one “rude person” while circulating the petition. “I collected signatures to help me and help the people,” she said. Meanwhile, Clarence Valley Council’s SRV application to the IPART states under the heading, ‘Impact on rates’ that “extensive community consultation on the impact of the SRV on Clarence Valley ratepayers has been undertaken”. “Council has listened to the concerns raised by ratepayers from the community consultations regarding affordability and have thereby resolved to reduce the SRV from the original 8% p.a. to a 6.5% p.a. increase over the five year SRV period from 2016-17 to 2020-21 and have also resolved to maintain increases for Water and Sewer Charges to a maximum of 1.5% per year for five (5) years from 2016-17, to minimise the impact of the SRV on the Total Rate Bill,” the application states. “The large reduction in the increases in Water and Sewer charges (in 2015-16 Sewer charges were increased by 8.9% and Water charges by 6.5%) is now possible because all major capital works for the Water and Sewer Services have been finalised. “A review of Council’s 30-year financial modelling undertaken by consultants has been completed and confirms Council can maintain increases for Water and Sewer charges 1.5% per year for five (5) years from 2016-17.” This section of the application went on to break down the impact on each of residential and business rates categories across the valley. Submissions to the IPART close on March 14.