Council says park should pay rates
THE cash-strapped Nambucca Council is seeking legal advice about a legislative ambiguity which it believes is robbing it of up to $20,000 in rates revenue.
At issue is whether the biggest caravan park within its shire boundaries should or should not pay rates.
The question arose last year when the council wrote to the Minister for Local Government requesting that the Scotts Head Caravan Park pay general rates.
It has subsequently been informed by the Minister that as the park is on a crown reserve deemed for public recreation it qualifies for an exemption from paying the general rate.
Council’s general manager Michael Coulter disagrees.
“I believe council is right and the Minister is wrong that public recreation areas don’t pay rates,” Mr Coulter said.
He said the Scotts Head Caravan Park was now managed by the Department of Lands after the State Government sacked the local community trust.
“We do not doubt that profits from the park are spent on its maintenance and improvement but this is not a public access park. It is not something everyone can enjoy for free,” Mr Coulter said.
“The Act is very black and white regarding who pays rates. I can’t see why caravan parks on Crown lands should be exempt.”
Despite the Minister’s ruling Nambucca councillors remain unconvinced about the legality and ethics of exempting the park from paying the general rate.
“The park already pays the water, garbage and sewerage rate but I believe it also needs to pay the general rate,” Nambucca mayor Councillor Rhonda Hoban said.
“Within the park there are a lot of permanent residents who are effectively getting to drive on roads, use libraries and access other council services such as paid lifeguards and public amenities without paying a cent for them,” she said.
“And it is not as though we are a council with an excess of funds.”
Cr Michael Moran said the government was effectively discriminating against privately run caravan parks.
“Caravan parks are a business like any other,” Cr Moran said.