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Petitions (pictured) opposing Clarence Valley Council’s special rate variation contained 5,420 signatures. Image: Clarence Forum

No SRV petition exceeds expectations

Geoff Helisma |

The Clarence Forum, a Facebook advocacy and discussion group, has exceeded its target of 5,000 signatures opposing Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority (IPART) for a special rate variation (SRV).

At an extraordinary CVC meeting on Tuesday February 6, councillors, apart from Cr Debrah Novak, supported the application for an eight per cent per annum increase in the general rate over each of three years, inclusive of 2018/19’s 2.3 per cent rate peg and a 2.5 percent assumed rate peg for 2019/20 and 2020/21.

The cumulative increase in the general rate charge, 25.97 per cent, will then remain permanently in general rates charges.

The councillors’ decision states that the increase “will generate $10.298 million general rate income above the rate peg over the three (3) years 2018/19 to 2020/21, to achieve General Fund Financial Sustainability and General Fund Asset Sustainability”, in order to meet the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future benchmarks.
In its application to IPART, CVC makes a number of arguments in the Consideration of affordability and the community’s capacity and willingness to pay section to justify its SRV application, including a significant increase in average taxable income and comparing rent and mortgage payments with the state’s averages.

“Whilst 2013 average taxable income (taxable and non-taxable individuals) for the Clarence Valley Council Local Government Area [CVC LGA] is $45,028, which is 14% below the OLG [Office of Local Government] Group 4 average of $52,232 (based on the 2015/16 Time Series data from the OLG), recent ABS census data indicates an increased capacity to pay an SRV for CVC ratepayers, with [the] CVC LGA Median Weekly Household Income increasing by 18.5%, from $768 in 2011 to $910 in 2016,” the application states.

“…Median weekly mortgage repayments … for the Clarence Valley Council LGA (per ABS 2016 Census) are $300, which is lower than NSW median ($458), per [Census 2016 quick stats].

“The median weekly rent for the Clarence Valley Council LGA (per ABS 2016 Census) is $255, which is lower than the NSW median ($380) per [Census 2016 quick stats].”

This section of CVC’s application, which notes that the proposed SRV’s impost on the valley’s ratepayers will be “substantial”, also compares business, residential and farm rates across other Group 4 councils, adjoining LGAs and other LGAs with comparable population densities

It also makes comparisons across the socio-economic disadvantage 2011 index in NSW (Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas) – South Grafton scores 830 9the lowest), while more affluent areas such as Junction Hill and Angourie equal the NSW-wide score of 996.

The LGA’s valley-wide score is 919.

The Clarence Forum’s convenor, John Hagger, posted on the forum: “It was an amazing result.”

He thanked forum members Annie Dodd, Amanda Glen, Lynne Wilson and Marie Yamba, who coordinated the petition’s distribution and spent several days canvassing people on the valley’s streets, and “the dozens of other people who gave up their time, to make this possible”.

“Massive thanks also to the all local businesses and shops who generously gave the no SRV petition a home on their front counters,” he wrote.

“Heartfelt thanks to each, and every, one of the 5,420 people who took the time to sign; your voice will be heard.”

However, “at least a dozen” petition sheets went missing from upper and lower river business premises, which equates to 180-plus signatures if the sheets were full when they were removed.

The Clarence Forum will make its submission to IPART during the next week.

Clarence Valley Council received 11 submissions opposing the SRV during its public consultation and lodged its SRV application on February 13.

The council’s submission can be viewed/downloaded on the IPART website.

Meanwhile, IPART will accept submissions until March 6.

IPART will determine whether or not to approve CVC’s SRV application on May 15.