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Devil in the detail on rate support

Wednesday 11 March 2020

The NSW government’s offer to cover half a year of council rates for properties destroyed by bushfires is creating headaches for south coast councils.

Eurobodalla’s general manager Dr Catherine Dale said it turns out the helping hand comes with conditions.

“The NSW government has advised it will only reimburse councils for the ordinary rates component. This means all other charges that appear on your rates notice like levies for environment and stormwater will not be refunded. And in the case of councils like ours that provide water, sewer and waste services, those amounts won’t be reimbursed either.

“I have no doubt the government’s announcement was a genuine attempt to alleviate hardship on people already devastated by the fires,” Dr Dale said. “However, imposing conditions on the funding weeks later without any advice or explanation to councils or ratepayers is proving problematic.”

Dr Dale said the media announcement on 4 February made no distinction between ordinary rates and the other charges residents find on their rates notice.

“And unlike metropolitan councils, most regional and rural councils provide water, sewer and waste services to their communities. Ironically, the local government areas hardest hit by the fires will end up receiving least benefit,” she said.

In Eurobodalla, 688 properties were deemed eligible for the six months of rates reimbursement. Service NSW counts destroyed or uninhabitable properties eligible.

Dr Dale said Eurobodalla Council expected a refund of around $750,000, however, the reimbursement on offer at the moment is roughly $300,000 short of that figure.

“Overdue rates notices will go out today, but we’ve held back the notices for Eurobodalla’s 688 eligible properties until this can be sorted out,” she said.

“I’m working with colleagues at other fire-impacted councils to find a solution.”

Eurobodalla ratepayers who receive an overdue notice and believe they are eligible for the reimbursement because their property was destroyed should contact Service NSW.