Council spells out need for rate rises

FITNESS TEST: Shoalhaven City Council says it faces challenges if it is to meet the NSW government Fit for the Future criteria.THE next step in Shoalhaven City Council’s Fit for the Future program will take place at the end of June.
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All NSW councils must hand in their submissions to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) by June 30.

IPART set seven benchmarks each council must strive to meet.

Each council in NSW was required to assess its capacity and performance and prepare a plan to ensure it can continue as a viable entity into the future.

For some councils, this will include a merger with their neighbours.

According to Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash and deputy mayor John Wells, that will not be the case for Shoalhaven.

“Council certainly sees itself as a viable council area,” Cr Wells said.

“We have the critical mass to keep operating in the same geographical area.

“Our main challenges will be in relation to infrastructure maintenance and the backlog of works this current council inherited,” he said.

What Fit for the Future will mean for the Shoalhaven, they say, is rate increases in order to deal with that infrastructure maintenance backlog and ensure more infrastructure investment in the future.

A Fit for the Future report and an attachment was made available to councillors pm Thursday afternoon.

The report talks about how council plans to meet the IPART benchmarks.

General manager Russ Pigg said the plan involved a mix of long and medium-term strategies.

“One of the benchmarks is about addressing our backlog of work on infrastructure and how we will fund asset renewal,” he said.

“By 2019, even with rate increases, we won’t meet all of the IPART ratios.

“We will still be short on the assets maintenance and renewal ratios.

“However we have to be able to demonstrate a trend line of improvement.”

He said the report showed rate increases of 7.5 per cent in 2017/2018 and another 7.5 per cent increase in 2018/2019 would get Shoalhaven up to the must-meet ratios.

“If we want to meet all seven ratios we’re likely to need 20 per cent rate increases in both those years, plus spend another $50 million on assets,” Mr Pigg said.

“So you can see it’s a longer-term plan.

“You just can’t go from the levels we have got to 100 per cent in that time frame.

“I know the rate increase subject is contentious in some quarters, but the reality is rate pegging has been an inhibitor to council,” Mr Pigg said.

The report showed Shoalhaven City Council will have almost 20 per cent less in residential rates in 2016 compared to similar group five classified councils like Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Tweed and Wollongong.

“On the cost-cutting side we are trying to drive efficiencies in the organisation. We’ve had the restructure, cut down on operating costs, and will continue to drive efficiencies as we go forward.

“When you compare our revenue side to the other councils, we have more swimming pools, more of some facilities and larger areas of open space to maintain, but we are trying to provide that with a much lower rate base.”

He said from a financial and asset management point-of-view the Fit for the Future exercise was good because it forced councils to put themselves in a position where they can maintain their assets into the future.

“To achieve that the state government is telling councils become more efficient now, and so we can afford the facilities you want to provide in the future we’ve got to look at our revenue base.”

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GALLERY: Panthers power to win over Confederates

GALLERY: Panthers power to win over Confederates STICK WORK: Kylie Tomlinson works the ball for Confederates in their women’s PLH game against Lithgow Panthers. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey4
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Kylie Tomlinson is pressured by the Lithgow defence. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey3

Andrea Gillard runs the ball for Lithgow Panthers as Samara Beasley applies pressure. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey1

Grace Evans looks at her options for Confederates as Lithgow’s Roxsanne Van Veen looms. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey2

Goergia Parr gets a pass away for Confederates. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey9

Confederates’ Samantha Laverty tries to better her position. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey8

Belinda Lewis winds up. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey7

Belinda Lewis looks at her options for Confederates. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey6

Samantha Laverty juggles the ball for Confederates. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0620hockey5

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Shoddy NBN Co repair work on damaged paths is tantamount to corporate vandalism

WE love what’s happening in the CBD with the Nowra Alive initiative. The explosion of art works in surprising places has added texture and colour in what were dreary corners. Equally important, it has brought people together to engender a new sense of pride in the place where they live and work.
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When the art works first started going up around the CBD, quite a few of us doubted they would stay there for long. We feared they would be attacked by graffiti or simply torn down by vandals. Happily, that hasn’t happened.

We applaud Shoalhaven City Council for getting on the front foot with this initiative; it is making a real difference.

Unfortunately, though, other forms of corporate vandalism are leaving scars on our CBD. The rollout of the NBN throughout Nowra has seen paths torn up and patched with tar, creating eyesores and trip hazards and undoing some of the work council has done over the years to make the place look a little less rundown.

Even in our main shopping street, there is a big ugly patch where pavers have been dug up to accommodate the NBN infrastructure. This is simply unacceptable.

While the NBN is a necessary addition to our telecommunications system and we will all ultimately benefit from better internet access, we should not have to pay for it twice – once as taxpayers and again as ratepayers when council inevitably will have to properly fix the mess left behind.

We support the tabling of a motion at last week’s national assembly of the Australian Local Government Association in Canberra by Shoalhaven deputy mayor John Wells.

The motion sought greater legislative and regulatory control over utility providers to ensure when they disrupt council assets they are obliged to undertake repairs to a higher standard.

Many times over the years, the Register has reported telco pits left open and manhole covers left broken for months on end. We expect better of utility companies.

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International tourist surge boosts Perth businesses by $130 million

A rise in international tourists has boosted Perth businesses by more than $130 million. Photo: Erin JonassonExtra international tourists flocking to WA have boosted Perth businesses by more than $133 million over the past 12 months.
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Tourism Council WA reported the eight per cent surge in international tourists into the state had pushed the overall annual tourism contribution past $2.3 billion.

Tourists from Malaysia and Singapore led the charge on the back of a low Aussie dollar and the launch of new budget airlines with visitors from the US also increasing.

Latest data from an international visitor survey for the year ending December 2014 showed an extra 61,300 international visitors came to Western Australia.

Tourism Council WA CEO Evan Hall said the figures showed tourism growth was creating jobs and bolstering the state economy.

“As the economic influence of the mining sector declines, tourism is emerging as a powerful sector in terms of job creation and economic input,” Mr Hall said.

“This boost in international tourists means there are more jobs for coach drivers, extra shifts for waitresses and more new small businesses giving jobs to local people.”

“The tourism industry is a valuable contributor to employment in this state, creating 94,000 jobs for Western Australians.”

Meanwhile, it will be easier for visitors to immediately immerse themselves in the state’s South West with the Barnett government announcing on Saturday the $59.7 million expansion of Busselton Regional Airport.

The announcement was made in Busselton by the Premier Colin Barnett and Regional Development Minister Terry Redman.

“New infrastructure at the airport will enable new interstate airline routes that will drive wider economic growth in the South West,” the premier said.

The airport announcement was welcomed by the South West Development Commission, which played a key role in building the case for the expansion of the facility.

SWDC chairman Stuart Hicks said the expansion of the regional airport was identified as a top priority in the South West Regional Blueprint, a strategy for growing the region over the next 35 years.

The blueprint will be officially launched on July 1. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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The Goss: iPhone makes cameo in publicity shots for BBC period drama Banished

The Goss: Ruby Rose’s former fiancee opens up about ‘surprise sexual awakening’
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When Governor Arthur Phillip arrived on our shores in 1788 he posted a photo of Botany Bay to Instagram and carried an iPhone, according to the BBC anyway.

Ahead of the premiere of the upcoming First Fleet drama, Banished, the network released promotional material that was a little ahead of its time.

In one of the photos, star David Wenham, who plays Phillip in the series which airs on Foxtel on Thursday, has a phone in his pocket … 59 years before Alexander Graham Bell got to work and centuries before Steve Jobs was the most unpopular man in Silicon Valley.

At least this now takes the limelight off Logie hopeful and ALP senator, Sam “Dasher” Dastyari who filmed his own re-enactments for the ABC mini-series The Killing Season which focuses on the tumultuous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

Senator Dastyari was filmed talking on his iPhone 6 walking down Lonsdale Street in Melbourne as he recounted a phone call he received from a pollster in 2010. The 6 was released in 2014.

Banished is not the only British period drama to enjoy modern day comforts. Downton Abbey show bosses were left red-faced last year when a plastic water bottle was spotted in a promotional photo of actors Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael who were dressed in character.

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