5 March 2024

Online survey gives Griffith and Narrandera residents last chance to oppose substantial council rate hikes

| Oliver Jacques
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Group of people at large table

Narrandera Concerned Ratepayers members (from front, left) David Farley, Kae Smith, Anthony Marsh, Debra Metcalf, Wesley Hall, Ben Mahy, Steve Rolfe, Shane Clancy and Craig Broad. Absent from photo are Warwick Heckendorf, Anita Houldsworth and Michael Gray. Photo: Baz Tuppin.

Griffith and Narrandera residents will have one last window to voice concerns about a looming substantial council rate increase, via an online survey or submission sent directly to the state local government regulator.

Griffith City Council voted in favour of increasing its rates by 35 per cent over the next three years, while Narrandera Shire Council has backed a motion for a 43 per cent rise in rates over just two years.

Each council made an application for a special rate variation to the NSW Government’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which makes the final decision on whether the proposed increase will go ahead.

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If IPART approves the proposed hikes, households in both shires face an average annual rise in their rates of more than $300.

The regulator is giving residents the chance to influence its decision-making directly, giving them the chance to complete a five-minute survey or lodge a submission on its website before 18 March.

Some ratepayers have told Region this survey is hard to find and has not been well advertised. A link to the survey is included in this article.

“I would encourage everyone to fill this survey out,” Griffith pensioner Col Beaton said.

Mr Beaton and friend Kay Scobie have been promoting a petition against the Griffith council’s rate rise, which has garnered more than 1000 signatures. He said the pair would be completing the survey and making a more detailed submission to IPART.

Two pensioners with a petition

Colin Beaton and Kay Scobie asking Griffith residents to sign their petition at Griffith Central. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

“Community submissions and responses to the online survey help us assess whether a council’s application meets [our] criteria,” an IPART spokesman said.

The criteria includes: demonstrating the need for the additional income; providing evidence that the community is aware of the extent of the a rate rise; and establishing that the impact on affected ratepayers is reasonable.

Mr Beaton says the extent of the rise is not reasonable.

“Council says its wages and costs are going up and they have to pass it on,” he said. “But everyone’s costs are going up. The ratepayers, the workers, the families – who do we pass on the costs to?”

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Both Griffith and Narrandera Council have argued they need to increase their revenue to maintain the current level of services they provide. They have also said cost shifting from the state and federal government puts more pressure on their budgets.

A group calling themselves Narrandera Concerned Ratepayers didn’t buy this argument. They also organised an anti-rate hike petition that recorded more than 1,000 signatures.

“The general feeling from the community is we are not getting value for money from the council. When they have any problems, the ratepayers have to pay,” group spokesman Wesley Hall said.

An IPART spokesperson has said the council fee rises may go ahead even if there is ratepayer opposition to them.

“The criteria does not require the council to demonstrate community support for the special variation but to demonstrate the community is aware of the proposal,” he said.

If IPART gives the rate hikes a green light, the average Griffith household would see their annual rates go up by $386 in three years’ time, while Narrandera residents will face a rise of about $300 by 2026.

Leeton Shire Council also proposed a substantial rate hike but that was blocked at the first hurdle after a strong community campaign led by former council employee Alison Egan.

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