Outrage over Burns Point ferry fee hike

A VOCAL gallery of South Ballina residents were patently disappointed with the outcome of last week's council meeting, which narrowly approved a hike in annual Burns Point Ferry fees.

The decision to increase the annual vehicle fee from $250 to $295 was carried in a tight bidding war.

Ballina Shire mayor David Wright carried a motion initially moved by councillor Sharon Cadwallader to increase the annual vehicle fee to $295.

Initially the proposed annual fee rise was $365.

South Ballina residents, who said council had "no love" for them, believed the council should find operational savings or charge cashed-up recreational cyclists rather than slug them with increased fees.

They said a redundant gate, overly-serviced staff toilet and inefficient slipway were areas where council should look first for savings.

The "black hole" ferry cost Ballina ratepayers about $245,000 this financial year.

Councillor Paul Worth, who supported the increase of the annual ferry fee, said it meant people would pay $1 a day for as many trips on the ferry as they liked.

However, South Ballina residents argued that this was not true for the majority of families running multiple cars or farmers with agricultural machinery.

Empire Vale resident Lew Cannon said: "The ratepayers of Ballina have a right to be told why the council refused to consider the $250,000 saving put forward by the South Ballina Ferry Committee.

"Instead they raised the price of the yearly ferry ticket to $295. This will mean a loss to all Ballina ratepayers. Truly a stupid and worthless decision."

Burns Point Ferry connects south and west Ballina, and means residents on the south side don't have to travel to Wardell to cross the Richmond River.

Sixth generation South Ballina resident David Felsch did not mince words in his deputation, claiming there was "no love" for people of the south.

"We have been denied free passage of our box trailers because they supposedly take up a paid car space but the bikes are most definitely taking up paid car spaces. Some of those push bikes are worth more than our cars," he said.

Councillor Robyn Hordern said any proposal for bike fees should be exhibited separately, arguing the ferry was not a "passenger ferry".

"Otherwise we would be paying people per head," she said.

Mr Felsch argued the ferry should be free to residents who use it like a road.

"We've been told from members of (council) staff 'you don't have to live there'. I actually find that really insulting," he said. "South Ballina is where Ballina actually started. The first lifesaving movement started here."