Too much to ask


COFFS HARBOUR City Council's bid to raise rates by 22 per cent crashed because it was asking too much and too many other councils wanted big increases, according to general manager Mark Ferguson.

He said the number of councils asking for big rises was too much for Local Government Minister Tony Kelly to cope with, leading to the minister rejecting requests from 10 councils.

Other councils to miss out on rates rises include Greater Taree (which asked for 23 per cent), Great Lakes (18.5 per cent), Wingecarribee (12 per cent) and Parramatta (9.8 per cent).

Speaking at the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast yesterday, Mr Ferguson said the City Facilities Program, involving $86.7 million of development, had 'run off the rails' because of opposition from pensioners, farmers, Sawtell residents and State MP Andrew Fraser.

"My view is that the 22 per cent was too much for the minister to cope with," he said.

"Too many councils were going for big rate increases ? going for big, big double-digit rate increases."

Mr Ferguson defended the council's community consultation program which attempted to convince residents of the need for the ambitious development plan.

"I thought our consult was pretty good," he said.

"We were out there in the community trying to sell it to the community.

"We ran off the rails in respect of the pensioners, the farmers and Sawtell ? they were the three groups that generated the most concern about the local impact."

The council would have to look for ways to more closely involve the community if it was to go ahead with sections of the City Facilities Program in the future.

Mr Ferguson said the city needed facilities such as an entertainment centre and an improved harbour precinct to help its growth.

He speculated that councillors may opt to raise rates in smaller increments ? such as three consecutive seven per cent increases ? to pay for new infrastructure.

A future amalgamation of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca councils ? which Mr Ferguson said could be on the agenda in the next five to 10 years ? would also increase the need for more community facilities in Coffs Harbour.

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