You have to hand it to social media – it’s a great place to vent. Posts about Shoalhaven City Council’s Tuesday night vote to press ahead with a raft of rates increases have generated a lot of heat – most of it criticism.
This is all well and good. It’s great there is discussion about a decision that will hit the pockets of ratepayers across the city. However, those people venting their frustration, anger and opposition – and, of course, those few supporting the proposed hikes – should save some of that energy for the formal consultation process that gets under way from Monday.
This will be the source of feedback council will rely upon for feedback, not the passionate commentary on Facebook. There will be phone and paper polls and a series of forums for council to present its case to the community and to hear feedback. While it may feel good to offload on Facebook, it’s more important that opinions are funnelled through the appropriate channels.
If ratepayers have a strong opinion one way or the other, council needs to hear it.
Much has been said on Facebook about the apparent waste of money when it comes to road repairs – it’s been a recurring theme for many years. Yes, say it on Facebook by all means but remember that you’re probably preaching to the converted when your message really needs to get to the decision-makers.
The move to seek rates increases is not the final outcome. Council will have to put its case to the Independent Prices and Regulatory Tribunal, which may well reject or water down the proposal. In the meantime, there will be the usual political bickering.
The opening shots have already been fired, with chief opponent Cr Andrew Guile employing Donald Trump-like language to point the finger of blame at what he called “elites” in council. In more measured language, Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley has said the rise is necessary if council is to maintain its services and fix roads.
There is still a lot of convincing required to sell the idea to the community – a process which will run until mid-January. As with any price increase, especially in a region where so many ratepayers are older and on fixed incomes, that will be an uphill battle. It will require convincing a largely hostile audience that the money council collects from ratepayers is being spent in the best way possible.
Only honest, simple, compelling argument will sell the proposal.