Hart’s plea for political support falls on deaf ears

Labor MPs David Harris, Liesl Tesch and David Mehan

Central Coast Council Administrator Rik Hart’s recent appeal to Coast politicians of all persuasions to support a push for the region’s 15 per cent rate rise to become permanent has fallen on deaf ears.

Hart said it was necessary for the rise to continue beyond the three-year term set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) if Council is to carry out its long-term financial plan and that he will seek an urgent meeting with IPART to push Council’s case.

But Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris, said Labor MPs support the approach taken by IPART in setting a three-year limit.

“Central Coast Council put a submission to IPART earlier this year for a Special Variation of 15 per cent which was opposed by ratepayers,” Harris said.

“IPART assessed this submission and made a detailed response which granted a 15 per cent rise over three years.”

Harris said IPART estimated that Council would collect an extra $70.2M in rates revenue over the three years, which would enable it to meet its first three years of loan repayments.

“IPART said this will also allow the Council sufficient time to adequately implement, execute and quantify its efficiency and productivity goals whilst responding to recent structural changes,” he said.

Harris said IPART echoed the “general mistrust” the community has for Council’s chequered financial history and put them on notice to demonstrate actual improvement.

“IPART said ‘While in the past the Council has not adequately demonstrated sufficient effort in identifying and realising cost savings, this three-year temporary SV approval gives it sufficient time to show progress, address findings from the public inquiry if any and prepare and apply to IPART for an SV in the future if required’,” he said.

“We are happy to meet with the Administrator Mr Hart, but we will not lend support to a huge rate increase.

“We have called on the NSW Government to extend repayments of restricted funds, to pay for the full cost associated with amalgamation and to end cost shifting more and more onto ratepayers of the Central Coast.”

Harris said Council has three years to demonstrate it has its financial house in order.

“That should include assistance from the NSW Government whose merger policy has added to the woes of ratepayers,” he said.

“We are yet to receive a detailed briefing from Council to justify a further rate rise.”

Meanwhile, Member for Terrigal and Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, has said Council “needs to look at every option to avoid putting its hands in the ratepayer’s pocket again”.

“Rate rises should be used as a last resort,” Crouch said.

“I do not support Central Coast Council treating a rate rise as an easy option to make money fast.”

Crouch said one of the options available to Council is to corporatise or commercialise a small share of its multi-billion-dollar water authority.

Terry Collins