THE fragile financial state of the Nambucca Shire Council has been exposed after yet more unexpected body blows from the State Government.
The Transport Minister David Campbell has decided not to make an allocation from Natural Disaster Funding for the repair of the Deep Creek Bridge which was rendered untrafficable during last year’s floods.
His refusal to help Nambucca Council meet the half million dollar cost of replacing the dilapilated dual lane timber bridge with a single lane concrete structure comes after the State Government last week set rate pegging at 2.6 per cent for the year ahead.
“It was bad news on bad news,” Nambucca Mayor, Councillor Rhonda Hoban, said.
“We inhertited the bridge from the RTA when Deep Creek was bypassed and recently had to put a load limit on it because the government no longer takes responsibility for it’s maintenance. Now the minister has said because it was already in a dilapilated state before the flood he won’t give us Natural Disaster funds to fix it.
“It is so frustrating. Where does he now expect us to get the money to replace a bridge that is vitally important to its local community?”
She said his decision was even harder to accept in light of the government’s 2.6 per cent rate peg.
“Our staff wages bill is going up by more than that each year, so we will end up worse than we are now unless we can get exemption for an increase beyond the pegged limit,” she said.
“But that in itself is problematic. This is a very low socio economic area and we know we can’t expect our ratepayers to just keep dipping into their pockets. On the other hand we have to be realistic about how we continue to service the needs of our residents if in real terms we get less and less money. Our council staff have progressively taken on more and more work and are now part of a very efficient and streamlined workplace. If we reduce our workforce further it is inevitable that services will start to suffer.
“People probably don’t realise that an increasing burden to council’s everywhere is the cost of reporting back to the state government and complying with their legislative requirements.”
The mayor said she doubted whether there would be majority support from her colleagues to a rate rise exemption beyond the one per cent increase that had already been flagged to fund pressing issues such as the stabilisation of landslips on Riverside Drive.