Coastal councils denied rate rises

By BELINDA SCOTT

BELLINGEN Shire Council's application for a 4 per cent environmental levy has been approved and so has Nambucca's application for an extension of its environmental levy for five years, but Nambucca Shire Council has joined Coffs Harbour City Council in having its application for a general rate rise denied.

Nambucca Shire Council asked for a 10 per cent rise in its general rate and Coffs Harbour an 18 per cent rise. Both were knocked back by the NSW Minister for Local Government, Tony Kelly.

What do these knockbacks mean for the two Coffs Coast councils, both facing pressure on their infrastructure from an influx of new 'seachange' residents?

Nambucca Shire general manager Tom Port said the knockback meant the loss of $580,000 the council had hoped to spend on replacing some of the shire's crumbling timber bridges, 14 of which have load limits placed on them, and some of which have an urgency rating for replacement.

"We weren't looking at any grandiose schemes," Mr Port said.

He is now hoping Nambucca councillors, who meet this afternoon to adopt the Shire's management plan, revenue policy and Budget, will agree to adopt a deficit budget for 2005-06.

Coffs Harbour City Council did have a grandiose scheme in mind, with its 16-project City Facilities program, designed to boost employment by making the city more appealing, especially to new, high-profile employers.

This will now be dramatically scaled back and council services will be put under the microscope to wind back a deficit of $1.2million to a deficit budget of $500,000.

Coffs Harbour mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, said the extension of Hogbin Drive would be put 'on the back burner' for at least 12 months because the council did not have the money to ask for State and Federal matching funds, although the council's general manager, Mark Ferguson, said this was a critical need because it would take pressure off the Pacific Highway.

Cr Rhoades said 2006-07 sports contracts could be lost because the council would not be able to fund facilities for the western sports fields at Marshalls Estate. Mr Ferguson said there would be no capital works at the Jetty Foreshores in the next 12 months.

The majority of ratepayers will pay from $1.20 to $1.56 a week ($62.20 to $80.96 a year) above last year's rates in 2005-06.



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