Residents rate unification plan as unfair

By Luis Feliu

A plan to unify the rates structure of Richmond Valley has hit a wall of opposition from Evans Head residents who say it is outrageous and unfair for them and they have support from Casino ratepayers.

Since its formation in 2000 from the amalgamation of three former local government areas, Richmond Valley Council has maintained separate categories for residential and business rates, but, in a bid to apply equity to ratepayers across the whole valley, it has moved to adopt a unified rating structure.

Council managers say that with different land values, ultimate fairness and equity would never be achieved because they are compelled to use land value when calculating general land rates. Those land values vary substantially between the coastal part of the valley (lower river) and further inland (upper river) with staff saying the average residential land valuation in Evans Head is four times that of Casino.

At present Evans Head residents pay a lower percentage than Casino residents.

On Tuesday, Richmond Valley councillors unanimously decided to put the proposed new rating structure up for public consultation with meetings to be held soon in Casino, Coraki, Woodburn and Evans Head at which Council will put its case.

Evans Head and District Residents and Ratepayers Association president Richard Gates says residents welcomed the opportunity for dialogue but feared the plan was all about shifting who is going to pay rather than increasing the rate base of Council.

Its wedge politics at its worst Council is clearly trying to drive a wedge between the people of the former council areas its like shuffling the deck chairs on the financial Titanic, Dr Gates said.

If adopted, the so-called unified general land rating structure will see Council rates for businesses and residences rise dramatically in former Richmond River Shire Council areas such as Evans Head, Broadwater, Woodburn and Coraki, and fall dramatically in Casino, which makes up the rest of the amalgamated Richmond Valley Council area.

For Evans Head, average business rates are set to change by 81 per cent while those in Casino are set to fall by 26 per cent and for home-owners average rates for Evans Head will increase by 39 per cent while those in Casino will fall by 16 per cent, Dr Gates said.

This is why so many of us opposed amalgamation because we saw what would happen, and there it is, a classic example.

He said the plan was complete nonsense and Council should look at other rating models used by neighbouring councils, such as Clarence Valley, which were more equitable.

Casino Ratepayers and Residents Association president Owen Crawford agreed with Dr Gates, saying the plan was about bleeding Casino people for their votes in the lead-up to council elections in September.

Were trying to work together with Evans Head ratepayers on this issue but Council is trying to push us apart I just hope people in Casino are smart enough to see through it, Mr Crawford said.

Dr Gates agreed, saying the move for a unified rating structure was a cynical one by councillors wanting to get re-elected in September because the numbers are in Casino.

But mayor Charlie Cox hit back, saying that sort of cynicism ignores the fact that councillors are elected to represent the whole community and not just sections of it.

We are doing nothing more now than listening to the public and I think councillors are experienced enough to make decisions without cynical comments being put on it, Cr Cox said.

He said the issue had been a long-standing one, with conflicting views between the Casino and Evans Head ratepayer associations.

All we have done for now is to put the plan out to the public to gauge their opinions on a unified rating structure, with meetings organised and an opportunity to be given for ratepayers to respond electronically.

If you would like to comment on the rates plan visit richmondvalley.nsw.gov.au.


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