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Submission to Council re request for astronomical rate rise..

To the General Manager and Councillors Bega Valley Shire Council By email 14/12/22

Dear Councillors, Submission in relation to proposed special rate variation options being considered by Council.

Ratepayers have witnessed the council expending money on many non-core items over recent years. The effect on the council balance sheet has obviously destabilized the shire to a significant extent. This has largely contributed to the current move by council to push that cost onto ratepayers.

I refer to; rebuilding the Bega Civic Centre and now the Library and Gallery. Add the Twyford Hall Theatre development, a cycleway from Tathra to Kalaru, the Lake St cycle/walkway, the Short Point upgrade, and major expenditure on the Kisses Lagoon upgrade in Bega to name a few

The significant investment of ratepayer’s funds into the Airport infrastructure blew out. For example, consider the terminal building replacement. This was budgeted to cost $ 2.4mil ($ 1.2mil each between ratepayers and the Federal Government). The cost doubled and we the ratepayers had to pick up the additional $2.4mil.

We note that we have contributed to the subsequent airstrip refurbishment, the runway extension and a business park. This was after we had (recently) paid $8-10mil on redoing the tarmac, which was meant to last 20 years. The BVSC mismanagement of this project meant that we received about 3 years of value instead of 20 years. The horrific wastage does not stop here.

We also note substandard roadworks around the shire, which again pushes impost on ratepayers which you propose to recover by asking us to pay higher rates.

Roadwork examples:

About 4 years ago the road from the bridge into town, in Merimbula, was ripped up and fully restabilised and then sealed with an emulsion surface. That had to be redone almost immediately afterward, at the ratepayer’s expense, due to poor contractor workmanship. Mismanagement meant the BVSC had no recourse.

Sapphire Coast drive, running up Tura hill, was fully redone around the same time. Now look at it. The lefthand side of the road is a hazard.

Arthur Kaine drive, past the airport entry to the Council depot, was fully rebuilt 3 years ago and again, it is a disgrace.

You can try and blame rain, but we have had wetter times before. The reality is that the work is inferior and accountability is limited or non-existent. The Jetpatcher pothole filler does an inferior job. It could be considered akin to a Swiss Army knife; just a multifaceted tool that does nothing properly. Every pothole, or those that receive attention, get patched and then remain on a rotational system (because the repairs never last).

The ‘repaired’ potholes basically return at the first dump of rain. It appears that the compound being used often does not even set hard (remains soft). We could go on forever about gross wastage of public and grant money. It is embarrassing. The public see this substandard work all the time, shake their heads, and recognise they are getting shoddy work and poor value for their rates. Management needs to step up rather than holding out your hand to further bleed ratepayers to cover for your mishandling of shire maintenance.

And now, on top of this, you add insult to injury by trying to coerce us and threaten to impose a 90% rate hike on the public. Many ratepayers and renters cannot possibly absorb such an impost.

It is incomprehensible, that you can consider imposing something like this on our area’s large number of low socioeconomic people. They are struggling to cover the ever-increasing costs of power (electricity and gas), the exorbitant cost of fuel, food inflation, rising commodities and rising interest rates. These cost increases are making life almost unbearable. If you were to proceed it would genuinely threaten their well-being and health. People who are renting will have these charges passed onto them by their landlords. Small businesses, who are already paying through the nose, will be pushed over the edge and some will likely have to close their doors.

We politely suggest you go back to the drawing board, make genuine in-house savings, improve efficiencies, and change your culture. By managing your position properly, you would set an example to the public. Stop wasting money on non-core projects until your balance sheet is once again manageable.

Ratepayers clearly need you to become efficient during this highly challenging economic time. Stiffen up with the State and Federal Governments and demand more money from them as the ratepayers can’t bear this. It would also help if you didn’t take on pork barrelling projects that are offered up when elections are imminent. They are inevitably an unplanned and non budgeted for additional burden on the ratepayer.. What is the value of having combined Council Groups, if they’ve got no clout in forcing the other levels of government to come to the party with more funding for core Local government needs, it appears these groups are putting their attention o supporting globalist agenda desires like Smart Cities, Agenda 21 or 2030 which has never been through public scrutiny….just a globally driven planning fest that is wasting precious and increasingly scarce public funds?

Management might also consider the cessation of burning money on non-core requirements, such as excess consultancy, PR propaganda and legal fees; all exorbitant. Stop promoting tourism (we have been discovered) and wasting moneys on promoting cruise ships etc. let the industry be responsible for themselves.

Do your duty by instead looking after the ones who can least afford it, get back to basics. Come back after you have done all this if you wish to restore your dignity and credibility.

Below is an example, from a couple of years ago, of some in house areas where expenditure was blowing out, areas where savings should be made but instead, rest assured, nothing has changed just further unjustifiable flamboyance.

We, and other members of the community, are at a point where we are considering establishing a Peoples Council to go and do some of the work such as fixing potholes and other basic things that are being neglected. We believe strong measures may be necessary as they have been in the past.

We therefore strongly reject your proposal to increase the rates at any level, above the rate pegged amount, until such time as you can show an improved culture of managing the BVSC affairs and budget responsibly, focusing on core needs. You need to show significant savings in non-core areas, except closing pools in the towns that mostly need them like Candelo, Bemboka and Cobargo. Savings in the area’s identified in the table above need to be the priority.

Yours sincerely,

Fraser Buchanan 0429881836


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