From the Newsroom

Sewer charge increase kicks up legal stink

Emma Pritchard


A local charity which provides affordable housing for seniors is adamant an increase in their sewer access charges from $120 to $1200 per pensioner per year by Clarence Valley Council (CVC), will jeopardize the services they offer.

Clarence Village CEO Duncan McKimm revealed they were first made aware of the increase last year when they received their rates notice, and following failed consultations with council to reach an agreeable solution, a hearing has been set in the Land and Environment Court on June 16.

Mr McKimm said while Clarence Village is happy to pay for what they use; he said the increase will effectively result in seniors paying more than the average ratepayer.

“It’s fundamentally wrong,” he explained.

“In the Clarence Valley, the average ratepayer pays $844 per person per year in sewer charges, so why should seniors be made to pay more?”

Mr McKimm said Clarence Village is a unique organisation, and their main focus is to continue to provide affordable housing for seniors.

“But how can we continue to do that when our sewer access charges have increased from $10000 to over $190000?” he wondered.

In a recently published Clarence Village newsletter, Mr McKimm said they have land in South Grafton with plans in place to build 32 affordable homes for seniors.

“Unless council revises its charges, instead of the $1218 we budgeted based on what we’ve paid for 50 years, sewer access would now cost $39000 per year for that development,” he stated.

“We’d need to charge each unit $22 per week more rent to cover this, rendering them unaffordable for seniors.
“We can’t do that, and we don’t believe it’s what our community wants from this council.”
In a recent interview with Loving Life 103.1 FM, CVC General Manager Laura Black said a review of property and ratings data commenced in 2018 to ensure ordinary rates including water, sewer, and waste charges were correct in accordance with the 2002 Water Supply Sewage and Trade Waste Pricing Guidelines, adding it has taken council quite a few years to apply the charges correctly.

“We’re finalising that now,” she revealed.

“There were six property holdings affected, Clarence Village was one of them, so they are now being charged, rather than one property holding with lots of individual connections within it, they’re being charged for each of those individual connections to each lot.”

Ms Black dismissed claims Clarence Village residents are paying higher sewer access charges compared to the average ratepayer, and said they were being charged the residential property connection.

“25 percent of our population is in that older age bracket, they’re not all in accommodation services, and they’re paying that rate themselves.”

Mr McKimm later told the Clarence Valley Independent he would be accepting an offer from Ms Black to make a deputation at the next council meeting on June 27.

Ms Black said the option to make a deputation is open to Mr McKimm through the normal application process once the Business Paper becomes available.