Rates will hurt

FARMERS and pensioners were the most vocal ratepayers at Thursday night's public meeting on the 2005/06 Draft Management Plan.

While the purpose of the meeting, held at the Coffs Ex-Services Club, was to present the entire draft management plan, much of the focus was on the $86 million City Facilities Plan.

The meeting attracted about 80 people on a cold, wet and windy night, with the council working hard to sell the proposed 18.5 per cent rate rise above the 3.5 per cent rise permitted under State rate-pegging legislation.

Upper Orara cattle breeder Phil Doyle said there were about 30 or 40 people in the city gaining more than 70 or 80 per cent of their income from farming who would be severely affected by the rate rise, which would be much more expensive for them than the average cost quoted for the majority of ratepayers.

Englands Road farmer John Robinson said he was already paying $5500 in rates on his farm, which was about one-fifth of his income and he estimated the proposed rise would add another $1000. He said half of his land was zoned 7A so he could not touch it, but he did pay rates on it.

The council's general manager Mark Ferguson said yesterday while the council could not take a position midstream, with the draft plan on exhibition, the effect on farmers was one of the issues that needed to be taken into consideration.

"There is some scope to look into varying the farmland rate," Mr Ferguson said.

"Farmers have traditionally received some concessions below the ordinary residential rate. We have to assess the mix between each of the three rating groups? business, farmland and residential and balance the impact on the farmers against the impact on the business and residential community."

Sawtell pensioner Phillip Farquhar said the last hike in the land value of his Sawtell unit from $20,000 to $80,000 had already added $167 a year to his rate bill. He said when combined with the totality of other costs for pensioners, rate rises 'rate a significant effect on our ability to stay on the credit side of expenditure'.

Sharp-eyed seniors were quick to nail the council on 'double dipping' on the proposed Seniors Multipurpose Centre, approved by the previous council, noting that while it was listed as one of 16 new projects in the City Facilities Program now on display, the $2 million Seniors Centre was included in council's 2004-05 management

plan, adopted in June, 2004, as a fully funded project, with no mention of extra rates for the purpose.

Tenders closed last week for the Seniors Centre project and Mr Ferguson said the council was about to appoint an architect.

Cr Ian Hogbin also piqued interest with his reference to linking the proposed new museum complex with the Bunker Cartoon Gallery. The museum is currently located in a flood-prone building in Harbour Drive, while the Bunker, perched high on flood-free City Hill, is surrounded by ample space for new buildings. Councillors and senior staff will be available in libraries, shops and shopping centres across the Coffs Harbour City area in the week ahead to answer queries on the $86 million City Facilities Program and the Draft 2005-2008 Management Plan.

Staff and councillors will be at Woolgoolga Library from 10am-noon on Wednesday; Palms Shopping upstairs outside Big W from 10am-2pm on Thursday; Toormina Gardens centre court from 10am to noon on Friday and at Nana Glen General Store on Saturday May 21 from 8am to 10am.

The plan is also available at the city's public libraries, country general stores at Karangi, Coramba, Nana Glen and Red Rock, Corindi Beach Post Office, Ulong Rural Transaction Centre and Coffs Harbour Visitor Information Centre as well as on council's website www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au

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