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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Four poisoned using barbecue coals to heat Sydney unit

Tragic deaths: Helena Curic and Derek Kehler are believed to have suffocated in their sleep as a woodchip fire burnt through the night in the converted shipping container in which they were staying. Photo: SuppliedFour people were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning on Sunday morning after using barbecue coals to heat their Bankstown unit.
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A spokesman for Fire and Rescue NSW confirmed that firefighters attended premises in Bankstown, with paramedics, about 3am on Sunday.

The victims were taken to hospital. Their condition is unknown.

The incident comes just a few weeks after a couple were found dead inside a makeshift cabin in Kurrajong, about 75 kilometres from Sydney.

Derek Kehler, 32, and Helena Curic, 31, are believed to have suffocated in their sleep as a woodchip fire burnt through the night in the converted shipping container in which they were staying on what was meant to be an idyllic long weekend with family.

Fire and Rescue NSW has again repeated its warning for people to avoiding using outside cooking appliances and heaters indoors, especially in inclosed spaces where there is no airflow.

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GrainCorp lays out plan to ride out El Nino as investors dump its stock

GrainCorp. Photo: Rob HomerInvestors have begun ditching Australia’s biggest listed agribusiness, GrainCorp, as a looming El Niño weather pattern threatens to erode earnings.
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The company’s price has lost much of this year’s gains, plunging 13.7 per cent to $8.73 since early May, when it said a drought-afflicted crop had pushed its interim profit down 40 per cent to $30.2 million.

The Bureau of Meteorology expects El Niño – a weather pattern caused by warming water in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America – to hit Australia this year.

Although it has led to severe drought in Australia in the past, farm commodities forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), says it is difficult to gauge the impact of El Nino on grain production.

“While reduced rainfall is often associated with El Niño, the timing of the rainfall can have a significant effect on crop production,” ABARES said in its latest crop report.

“For example, several of the El Niño events in the past three decades have not had any significant effect on winter crop production in eastern Australia.”

Morgans analyst Belinda Moore said “it is only early days, with threat of El Nino”.

Nevetheless, she downgraded her 2016 earnings forecast for GrainCorp, which was the target of a failed $3 billion takeover bid in 2014 from US agribusiness titan Archer Daniels Midland.

Ms Moore pointed to ABAREs’s estimates for the 2015/16 eastern winter crop, which is expected to be smaller at 14.1 million tonnes, compared with an average of 16.5 million tonnes.

“We have consequently made large downgrades to our forecasts,” said Ms Moore in a note to investors.

Morgans has slashed its 2016 and 2017 profit forecast for GrainCorp by 48.8 per cent and 16.7 per cent respectively.

But Ms Moore cautioned that “a lot can happen between now and harvest”, which runs from October to January. “While the outlook for the 2015/16 crop isn’t great, we stress there is a long way to go until harvest.”

She retained a hold rating on the stock, with a share price target of $9.40.

“Despite the poor seasons, management is not standing still. There appears to a clear strategy in palace to improve ROE [return on investment] and EPS [earnings per share] growth  over time.

“In FY18, GrainCorp is targeting a more balanced portfolio of businesses with one-third of earnings coming from each of malt, oils and storage and logistics. The initiatives in place to strengthen the business along with growth projects should set GrainCorp up for a big FY18”.

GrainCorp managing director Mark Palmquist told investors last month the company was spending $500 million on growth projects to provide earnings stability in drought years.

Projects include a $50 million expansion of its oilseed crushing capacity in Victoria to meet growing demand for products such as canola oil.

It will also spend $US75 million ($96.50 million) increasing its malting capacity in the US, as well as $A200 million storage and rail upgrade called “project regeneration”.

“We are very excited about the benefits this investment will deliver to growers and other customers using our network,” Mr Palmquist said when he announced the upgrade.

“Reduced complexity, faster rail loading times and shorter train cycle times will increase the volume of grain transported by rail and reduce supply chain costs, which translates to improved grower returns.”

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Despite council lodging plans, Joanna Gash not in favour of car park

OPPOSED: In her personal opinion, Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash does not support a multi-storey car park on the corner of Berry and Worrigee streets.SHOALHAVEN City Council’s development application for a multi-million dollar, five-level car park on the corner of Berry and Worrigee streets in Nowra is to ensure the project is shovel ready if any funding became available.
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Mayor Joanna Gash said the DA had been lodged and would be considered by the Joint Regional Planning Panel, the consent authority for this project.

The DA was submitted on June 12.

“Lodging the DA was to see if we would get approval,” Cr Gash said.

“If any funding became available we would be ready to go.

“It is now being prepared to go before council and will go on public exhibition for 40 days.

“Businesses and residents in the area have been notified.

“We always said we would get to this stage of having the project shovel ready.

“There has been a lot of water under the bridge but we are just doing what we said we would do,” Cr Gash said.

However, secretary of the Berry Court Owners Corporation John Watt said the proposal was still in the wrong place.

“It’s the wrong site, it belongs in Stewart Place and it’s far too big,” Mr Watt said.

He said the DA was no surprise to him. He had worked with council staff on a shadow diagram, but still believed the building should not go ahead where the proposal has it.

“Once we get a multi-storey car park in Egans Lane that will take any pressure off parking in Nowra anyway.

“At least with this DA being lodged we will have another opportunity to write a submission against the proposal,” he said.

Cr Gash said in her personal opinion she was not in favour of the car park.

“The question has to be asked, is this still what the area needs? Or are there other things that should take priority?

“There is more car parking now in the CBD, the Egans Lane project will change parking again, the shopping centre at Vincentia makes another change. The dynamics of the whole CBD is changing.

“Those are my personal opinions.

“People say we all vote together in council but we don’t. Council is a democracy and everyone has their right to be heard. I’ve been known to change my mind on many occasions.

“But we made a resolution that we would do this car park DA and now it’s in.

“This project is not in the budget and we will definitely be looking for the majority of funding towards it,” she said.

Cr Andrew Guile said he was confused by Cr Gash’s personal comment that she did not support the car park.

“The mayor said [in her personal opinion] she doesn’t support the car park at the corner of Berry and Worrigee streets in Nowra and yet since at least 2012 council has had a policy in support of it.

“Should we now expect two media conferences from the Mayor – one with the corporate position of council then one from the Mayor’s alter ego expressing the contrary view?

“Given the availability of federal funding through the Stronger Regions program, we need to have some applications of sufficient detail to have merit.

“Unless we can show potential investors in the CBD of Nowra that we have strategies to cope with increased economic activity in Nowra, we will not gain their confidence.

“The CBD Masterplan is a part of that, the Riverfront is a part of that and a practical expression of it would be an approved DA for this car park.

“That does not suggest for one moment that a multi-storey car park will solve all the problems of Nowra. It certainly won’t go near addressing the retail issues and it is not meant to do that. It may not even eventuate in the form that is intended, but that doesn’t mean that this is a futile exercise. It is another step of progress for the Nowra CBD,” Cr Guile said.

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Ex-Services can’t stop Souths

TIGHT: Ex-Services’ Ebony Press pushes the ball on as Bathurst Souths’ Ash Corby closes in. Photo: PHILL MURRAYHOCKEY
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BATHURST Souths have further entrenched themselves in the women’s Premier League Hockey top three thanks to a strong 4-1 win over Ex-Services on Saturday.

The two blues were in charge for most of the contest at Bob Roach Field, but had to withstand a second half comeback from their opposition.

Leading 3-0 with 20 minutes to play, the hosts were given a minor scare as Larissa Atkinson put her side on the board from a penalty corner.

The visitors then poured the pressure on for the next seven minutes and threatened a couple of times to bring the margin back to a single goal.

Kate Butcherine up front and Chloe Barrett were the pick of the Ex-Services side.

“I was pretty happy with the way the girls played in general and the determination they showed, but it was pretty frustrating at the same time,” Ex-Services coach Mitch Kennewell said.

“Our last touches in the circle were a bit off and we just struggled at times to get into the right positions.

“There is a bit of a gap now between us and the top three, so we just have to focus on making sure we’re in the finals and give ourselves a chance.”

BATHURST SOUTHS 4 (Ash Corby, Tahlia Cranston, Ali Stanford, Michelle Somers) def ORANGE EX-SERVICES 1 (Larissa Atkinson).

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THAT’S THE LAW: Marriage reform – who gets to say I do?

GOOD CITIZEN: Michael Kirby.SAME-sex marriage has over recent months become one of the hottest news topics.
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It is a very complex issue with interaction between religion, family, sexuality, personal living arrangements and personal finances, among many other things.

It is only natural then that there are a myriad of different angles that the subject can be viewed from, and each different view point will be coloured by subject background and values.

One element of the current debate that has been, to some extent, neglected is what the current legal position is, and what the proposed amendments are.

Marriage is regulated in Australia by the marriage act 1961 (Cwth). The act defines marriage as the “union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

This is a very neat, short, definition which packs into it many predominantly western, and traditionally Christian values. Not only does the definition make clear that same-sex couples cannot be married, but the act goes further and expressly states that same-sex “unions”, one can only assume that the choice not to use the term marriage was deliberate, entered into overseas will not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

There have been numerous attempts to amend the act.

The most recent is a private members’ bill introduced by Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, called the marriage amendment (marriage equality) bill.

It takes a very straightforward approach to amending the act, by simply amending the definition to substitute “two people” for “a man and a woman”. There are also several minor, consequential wording changes, and provision for regulations to make consequential changes to other acts as a result of the changed definition.

Opponents of legalising same-sex marriages often point to the practical in highlighting why a change isn’t required.

It is true that de facto same-sex couples do have many of the same rights as married couples in areas such as social security, succession law and workers’ compensation law, to name but a few.

There are problems with this argument, notably there are time requirements for a relationship to be considered de facto, whereas a marriage is valid from the moment registered, as well as the practical problems with people immediately recognising what being married means and it being quickly proven, whereas de facto is not always immediately understood.

There is also the powerful symbolic difference of marriage, and indeed for a relationship to be a valid de facto relationship it is an express requirement that the two people not be married.

Other critics of reform point out that the consequences of the changes are not yet fully known.

One example cites the situation of a marriage breakdown and child custody. In a heterosexual breakdown, so the argument goes, the mother usually gains greater custody of the children.

What happens then when there are two mothers in the relationship, or none at all only fathers? This, with respect, seems to be pretty flimsy, and could easily be dealt with by the courts applying the same principles they do currently.

Another example is that some states ban same-sex couples from adopting children, so an amendment to the act would lead to the strange situation where a couple could be married, but not allowed to adopt. Again, this is seems to be situation that could very easily be dealt with by some simple legislation. In summary, it is probably fair to say that an amendment to the act would have more symbolic consequences than practical ones. In saying that it is important not to trivialise the symbolic importance of this step.

As anyone who has attended a court can tell, particularly one where the barristers and judge are robed, symbolism plays a very important role in the law.

Perhaps the best way to end this column is to use the words of the extremely well respected and deservedly admired former high court judge Michael Kirby AC, CMG who said: “It’s still a shocking thing really to me that as a person who has served on the highest court and served the country and been a good citizen, had a stable family life, family values, that I’m still a second-class citizen in my own country.”

If amending the act can stop gay people feeling the way Michael Kirby describes, and accomplishes nothing else, it seems like an extremely worthwhile endeavour.

l Michael Evans is a solicitor at Whiteley Ironside & Shillington Solicitors

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