Shoalhaven councillors stall rate rise after hour-long feud

A Shoalhaven City Council meeting descended into a heated verbal exchange between councillors divided over the imminent rate rise.

After an hour-long stoush, a majority of councillors (seven) approved the special rate variation of 13.2 per cent.

However, opponents of the motion tabled a recision motion, meaning the issue will be debated again on Thursday night.

In the passionate debate on Tuesday, Mayor Amanda Findley stepped in to defend Cr Kaye Gartner who stood up while Cr Greg Watson had the floor.

“Oh, sit down,” Crs Mitchell Pakes and Andrew Guile said to Cr Gartner.

They were quickly asked to apologise, and they obeyed mayor Findley’s request.

Cr Guile opened the discussion, urging councillors to reconsider the rate rise.

“We’ve gone out with an agenda and said there was one way forward,” he said.

“People have been put over a barrel, told there will be no library, no pool without a special rates variation.

“We need to go back to the community and adopt something that’s far more reliable, acceptable and workable for people on fixed incomes, and with limited means.”

Cr Gartner, who voted in support of the rate rise, corrected him.

“It’s actually an independent body, not council making the recommendations,” she said.

Cr Watson chimed in, mocking Cr Gartner.

“Oh, it’s not us, it’s these dreadful IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) people telling us what to do,” he said.

Cr Guile, who shook his head in disagreement while Cr Gartner spoke, later argued that council had the power to reject IPART’s recommendations.

“If we adopt this rate rise what we are effectively saying to our community is, ‘we don’t care about you, and we think we know better’,” he said.

“It is arrogance on steroids for us to be pursuing this.”

Cr Nina Cheyne, who voted in favour of the rate rise, said some low-income earners supported the move.

“I work with some of the poorest people in the Shoalhaven, and they have said, ‘we don’t mind, as long as we get our services’,” she said.

“Now that’s integrity.”

Cr Bob Proudfoot, who opposed the rate rise, said council was yet to exhaust infrastructure funding options from the state government.

“I have serious doubts this is affordable,” he said.

“Energy and insurance bills are rising, wages are not, (by supporting the motion) we are contributing to the demise of a standard of living.”

For: Joanna Gash, Findley, Patricia White, Cheyne, John Wells, Gartner, John Levett

Against: Pakes, Guile, Watson, Mark Kitchener, Proudfoot

Absent: Annette Alldrick