Self proclaimed ‘Robin Hood’ leads rebellion over rate hike
SELF-proclaimed "Robin Hood of Richmond Hill" Neville King believes if Lismore City Council's Biodiversity Management Strategy (BMS) proceeds after "limited consultation" its rate rise will pile more pressure on low-income residents.
The former council candidate wants ratepayers to submit a yes or no submission on the draft plan en masse before February 24, so Lismore council gets a full overview of community concerns or support.
"The consultation is extremely limited. They're trying to rush this through so they can get to IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal)," Mr King claimed.
"This isn't a community issue as far as the funding is concerned, it's strictly ratepayers."
Mr King believes independent consultation to be undertaken by Hunter Research Foundation is narrow in scope.It will randomly select 200 ratepayers for short phone interviews out of a total of about 17,128 who will be affected - less than 1.2%.
Mr King's concerns come after Lismore councillor and farmer Greg Bennett repeatedly raised concerns about the strategy in various statements on social media.
If it proceeds, the BMS will be funded with $500,000 yearly by way of an ongoing 1.9% Special Rate Variation, starting July 1, 2016.
This means cost would vary for each ratepayer depending on which rate category they're in and the NSW Valuer General's land values.
Mr King believes the plan's implementation would be a tough blow for residents already struggling financially.
"Me, personally, I'm already paying $600 every three months," he said.
"I believe the council are trying to establish that frogs, lizards, trees are more important than people.
"Because there's lots of pensioners in our area, lots of low-income earners and single pensioners, if they are getting $450 a fortnight they're struggling to put food on the table now."
However, council's ecologist, Theresa Adams, said its "extensive" consultations had taken this into account.
"This is why Council is undertaking a thorough consultation process to understand these varied capacities and to ensure the community is aware of the approximate cost of the increased rate for their property," she said.
Ms Adams noted the council extended its usual 28 days for the community to provide submissions to 90 days, from November 26, 2014 to February 24.
Ms Adams said current submissions received "...varied widely from supporting to unsupportive".
View the full BMS, or enter a submission, at www.lismore.nsw.gov.au, or at the council's office in Goonellabah.
Regional Rate Rises 2016/17
Above standard rate peg rises:
Lismore - 1.9% in 2015/16 and 2016/17
Ballina - 2.5% in 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Richmond Valley - 12.5% from 2014/16 and 5.5% in 2016/17
Kyogle - 8.4% in 2015/16 and 3.2% in 2016/17
Byron - No rise determined.
Tweed - No rise determined