Have your say on the rates you pay

A COMMUNITY committee could help set Shoalhaven rates in the future if a proposal tabled at council is voted through.

The proposal would require representatives from Shoalhaven’s different rate categories to sit on a rate review panel.

The panel would hold public meetings to gather information and community opinion on the issue.

Panel members would make recommendations to council with councillors voting on a decision.

Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said when it came to rates in the region some people paid too much while others did not pay enough.

“We said we’d go to the people and that’s what we are doing,” Cr Gash said.

“We want a cross-section of independent people who will give us advice or recommendations.

“But the final decision will be made by council.

“This is something new council wants to try,” she said.

However at last week’s ordinary council meeting councillors Andrew Guile, Greg Watson and Mark Kitchener halted the proposal with a rescission motion.

Councillor Andrew Guile called the idea a half-baked attempt at outsourcing the responsibility of councillors.

“Council has already put off this exercise for more than 12 months,” Cr Guile said.

“It is time the Mayor and her councillors hardened up to the task at hand rather than duck shoving responsibility to others,” he said.

Councillor Greg Watson saw some merit in the idea but thought it needed a rethink.

He disagreed with asking councillors to vote on the final decision when they would not be privy to all the information available to the committee.

He said it would take time and dedication to bring the committee up to speed on the complex rating category system.

“Then after months of deliberation, receiving deputations from the community and being fed laundered information by staff, it’s got to come back to councillors who make the final decision.

“We won’t have the benefit of the detailed briefings that will go to this select group.

“Yet at the end of the day it’s on us to make the decision.

“It should be the councillors doing this. That’s what we were elected for.

“That’s my objection, but I won’t win this argument,” he said.

Nowra businessman and Nowra Commercial Tenants and Ratepayers Association member Jock Caldwell challenged council earlier this year to close the gap between commercial rates at South Nowra and the much higher rates paid in the CBD.

He thinks a rate review committee is a step in the right direction.

“It’s a great idea. Council’s got to start pulling their socks up,” he said.

“If they are all into getting public opinion, then what better way can you get public opinion than that?

“My feeling is the reason some councillors don’t want it is because a lot of them don’t want anyone interfering with what they feel is their job.

“The councillors don’t have to go along with it, but ratepayers should have the option to have a say,” he said.

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