Beware of Rate Rise Scare Campaigns
Another election, another scare campaign. Lies and figments of the imagination are conjured up to disguise something we should all be concerned about.
Consider the latest scare campaign that Waverley’s Labor/Greens Council has not managed finances well. This is opposite to the truth.
Finances are well and truly in the black at the completion of this 4-year council term. There were no job losses during COVID-19, as the council looked after its workers and kept its parks and streets clean. The major restoration projects at the Bondi Pavilion and Bondi Junction’s Boot Factory are on time and on budget.
The scare campaign in Waverley goes even further. It is alleged that a future Labor/Green Council would have to raise rates to cover the supposed shortfalls resulting from their alleged fiscal ineptitude. The real story is very different. Let’s talk about development levies, what the NSW Liberal Government now calls “infrastructure contributions”.
Developments of all kinds impose increased costs on the community. Those costs may result from population growth and higher demand for services such as garbage collection, libraries and child care, or just from controlling noise and heavy vehicle movements. Council uses these contributions to fund social services, parks upgrades, toilets, footpath and road repairs.
An “infrastructure contribution”, proportional to the size of the development, is required to be paid to Council to cover these costs. Waverley Council receives about $20 million each year from this source.
Liberal State Planning Minister Rob Stokes is keen to get access to funds from developer infrastructure contributions. His proposal would siphon off half of this money to a NSW Government infrastructure fund to be used at his discretion. That would be a big cut to Waverley’s budget for managing its public amenities including its nationally significant beaches, a key mainstay of the Australian economy.
Councils would be left to cope with the resulting revenue shortfalls. The minister’s proposed legislation kindly makes provision for councils to raise rates and to take out loans. Either way, Waverley’s rate payers would end up bearing the cost of Rob Stokes’ revenue grab.
Contrary to the scare campaign, it won’t be a Labor/Greens council increasing rates, it will be the Liberals in the NSW Government. They say they want the money to fund state-wide infrastructure, but this legislation would also increase opportunities for government pork barrelling in marginal seats before the next NSW election.
The NSW Government has a lacklustre record on infrastructure spending. They have overseen billions of dollars of cost blowouts on WestConnex, the light rail and football stadiums as well as new ferries and trains with serious design flaws. They have handed out bags of cash for shooting clubs. In almost all cases they have an eye to holding or winning marginal electorates. I’m sure that Waverley residents would not want to hand over essential local community funds to waste on more of this.
The planning minister has a conflict of interest. He may find it lucrative to override councils and approve more rezoning proposals. Rezonings mean larger, more costly development and would deliver higher “infrastructure contributions”. Overdevelopment in Sydney’s east is set to become another cash cow for spending at the whim of the Liberal State Government to support its political objectives.
Meanwhile, infrastructure in Sydney’s east is already under threat from the NSW Government. The controversial bus privatisation has been signed off but not yet fully implemented. The full extent of the resulting degradation of our public transport is yet to be seen. How does the minister expect an ever increasing population to cope with decreased public services?
Waverley residents and ratepayers deserve the facts, not another scare campaign.