BRIGHTON Council’s fair rating policy which is delivering Tasmania’s lowest council rates is at risk from the State Government’s planned takeover of TasWater which, if successful will rob local government of valuable distributions.
Brighton’s rating policy coupled with Council’s efficient and business orientated management, has kept general rate rises at or below the increase in the Hobart consumer price index for the past 21 years. The rise last year was just 1.3 percent.
Writing in the Council Annual Report to ratepayers, Mayor Tony Foster said Brighton’s long-standing commitment to keep down rates was under significant threat from the State Government’s planned money grab.
Cr Foster, who is the State’s longest-serving Mayor now in his 25th year leading Brighton Council, said Treasurer Peter Gutwein, backed by the ‘big-end-of-town’ lobby group, the Property Council wanted to hijack the local government-owned TasWater and turn it into a State Government business to boost Treasury coffers.
“Currently, more than 99 per cent of Tasmania’s households have access to Australian quality standard water and the less than one percent remaining will have access by August 2018.
“Yet the Treasurer, who is also Local Government Minister, claims Tasmania has a water and sewerage ‘crisis’, a claim debunked by TasWater’s respected chairman, Miles Hampton, the Local Government Association of Tasmania and the Bureau of Meteorology,” Cr Foster said.
“Premier Will Hodgman has proudly stated his Government will not force amalgamations, but by reducing council distributions from TasWater, rates would rise and some councils would become unsustainable and be forced to amalgamate. This is just what the Property Council wants.
“If Peter Gutwein succeeds with his proposed hostile takeover of TasWater, Brighton Council may have to abandon its long-standing commitment to keeping rates at CPI, a policy that ensures fairness for our residential ratepayers and which has consistently delivered the lowest per capita rates in Tasmania.
Cr Foster said under Peter Gutwein’s plan, an additional debt of $3000 would be imposed on every Tasmanian household to marginally speed up TasWater’s capital program. The proposed borrowings would significantly impact on TasWater’s long- term profitability and that’s why the State Government was unable to commit to the original dividend plan put forward by TasWater.
“Brighton Council’s investment in TasWater is valued at more than $46 million, paid for by Brighton ratepayers. The State Government plans to take this asset without any upfront compensation and return significantly less to the Council in the long term.
“If the Gutwein plan succeeds this will impact on our future budgeting and will threaten our rating regime with a predicted massive rate rise of 18.5 percent in 2025.
“Importantly, Brighton has a secondary and growing, streams of income to support its rates’ policy and to provide additional services for the community. Our initiatives include our information technology business Microwise Australia that is selling its unique software in Tasmania, throughout Australia and the South Pacific, resource sharing with an increasing number of councils in Tasmania and interstate, low-cost housing, and collaboration on a number of local government ventures.
“This entrepreneurial approach that has delivered significantly for Brighton ratepayers, is now at risk because of the State Government’s attempted asset grab,” Cr Foster said.
On a positive note, Cr Foster reported on Brighton Council’s key expenditure projects for the year – the major reconstruction of Baskerville road and a new pathway from the army camp gates to Pontville.
“The footpath is a welcome addition for residents and was well-used by members of the Campervan and Motorhome Club members who held their national rally at Pontville Park during the year, estimated to have injected almost $1 million into the local economy.
“The year also saw the Brighton Streetscape project progress with Federal funding and funding secured for the replacement of the Cove Hill Bridge and redevelopment of the Brighton Bowls and Community Club building.
“Other positives included education advances, news industries attracted to the Brighton Industrial Estate and progress on the development of a partnership with the Bridgewater Trade Training Centre.”
In closing his report, Cr Foster paid tribute to former Deputy Mayor and long-serving Councillor Geoff Tayor who passed away in late 2016.
Brighton Mayor Tony Foster