Saturday 23 October 2010

Saturday SoapBlog: John O'Grady - The David and Goliath battle with Cairns Council

At least 25 waterfront residents in the Bluewater area of Trinity Park are now refusing to pay a "Special Rate" or vista tax, for the privilege of living on Riverside Drive that now has a canal alongside. After receiving a less than satisfactory reply from Cairns Regional Council, they are set to challenge the levy in court.

They've issued a 'please explain' letter about the validity of the levy. A second letter said that unless a reasonable reply is received justifying the levy, they would not cough up. A large battle is looming.

A council in Tasmania charges a flat rate of $670 to every ratepayer, no matter the value of their property. Providing services to rate payers costs the same for any ratepayer like (rubbish collection, parks and gardens, libraries etc) so the logic of differential rating is flawed unless the higher payers get higher services or privileges from their Council.

Bluewater Resident John O'Grady tells the story...

There is a David Vs Goliath battle shaping up between a Cairns rate payer and Cairns Regional Council, and the stakes may be higher than anyone could imagine if a legal decision goes in favor or this disgruntled rate payer.

Local fisherman and waterfront resident Bill Izard has challenged Cairns Regional Council’s four year old decision to charge a “Special Rate” or levy for the vista he backs onto at Riverside Parade Trinity Park.

"I awoke one morning to be advised by Council that I now enjoyed a “Special Benefit” and I must pay, after living in the same house for more than 20 years," Bil says.

Under section 971 of the Local Government Act, Council’s have the ability to create a charge against your property if “in their opinion” they believe you have a specific special benefit. In other words, you could be living next to a park, backing onto a creek or nature reserve or any one of a number of other reasons providing it is ‘in their opinion’ that you derive a special benefit.
As spokesperson for the Riverside Parade Concerned Citizens Group, this is a dangerous precedence.

Council is right out of line with this levy and they may have a lot of trouble proving it is reasonable to charge a selected group of people, what amounts to a vista tax for just backing onto a public waterway where some 95% of usage is derived from the public boat ramp.

The case is presently being played out through the legal system and my yet be marked as a “test case” for similar challenges for underhanded and invented special charges that Council’s can misuse through broad and nondescript legislation under the Local Government Act.

At present, we are getting phone calls from others around the State, keen to know about this action and how it will play out. It’s about time the little person stood up and challenged stupid and unfair decisions from bureaucrats that affect their lives and living environment by inventing extra charges.

The current Cairns Regional Council was elected on a platform of ‘no rate rises and Accountability’ and they have failed on both accounts. This on top of the failed amalgamation, rising water charges, general rate rises and higher electricity costs, are pushing people over the edge, all along the east coast to start challenging Council’s and in some cases, calling for their sacking.

I strolled through one of the main office wings of Council chambers the other day and was not surprised to see that no one was working. They were standing around and sitting on desks in groups of two and three chatting and laughing, but no one was actually working. Down at the front desk, they all looked totally bored and out in the central garden area, Council personal were sitting around on one of their numerous breaks like they belonged to some sort of leisure club.

It is not the role of Council to be an employment agency with the ongoing growth to some 1,470 people, despite the Cairns economy and building industry collapse happening more recently.
People would may be not mind so much paying their fair share of rates if they could see value in the leadership of their Council to not waste their money.

It’s only a matter of time until all the dots are joined, as far as groups of disgruntled rate payers go, and there may be a full blown rates revolt if people are to continue to be treated unfairly and over charged by Council’s. In this day and age, many of these departments operate within a culture of protectionism and self preservation of their positions regardless of the need for so many wasted Council positions.

1 comment:

KitchenSlut said...

Oh dear there are so many issues raised here?

KS was invited to submit but is averse to submission! KS lives in a property previosuly acknowedged by Byrnes' selected CEO as the the most highly rated in Australia! Consequently KS pays higher rates than exaltaed millionairies?

Hullo sailor? Personally I just wish the Compost would have the guts to acknowledge their own deficiencies?