10,000 and counting: rates petition off to Parliament

NO RATE RISE: The business community, councillors Liz Innes and Milton Leslight and resident Patricia Hellier present 10,268 signatures opposing the proposed rate rise to Bega MP Andrew Constance. A PETITION against a proposed Eurobodalla rate rise is guaranteed to be debated in the NSW Parliament, Bega MP Andrew Constance says, after it received more than 10,000 signatures.

Resident Patricia Hellier, on behalf of Ian Hitchcock, presented the petition to the NSW Treasurer on Monday.

Eurobodalla Shire councillors Milton Leslight and Liz Innes and members of the business community also attended the hand over in support of the petition.

About 30 people gathered on the foreshore with a box containing petition sheets with 10,268 signatures.

Mr Constance said he, as a ratepayer, opposed the 6.5 per cent special rate variation which the Eurobodalla Shire Council was seeking through the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

“I was horrified to get a letter, unsigned from council, which said they had to lift rates,” Mr Constance said.

“Our rate base cannot afford the type of proposal on the table.

“It is still at a level that is unjustifiable.”

IPART is expected to rule on council’s submission in mid-May.

The NSW Government is in caretaker mode and MPs elected on March 28 are due to take their seats in Parliament in early May.

Mr Constance said he would indicate to IPART that this was an “absurd” proposition with “no justification”.

“I am calling on council to absolutely put a hold on this, because Parliament doesn’t go back until early May,” he said.

“Go back to the drawing board and fix this proposal.

“The community is at a disconnect here.”

He said Parliament was bound to debate the matter.

“This will automatically trigger a debate in Parliament,” he said.

“If you table more than 10,000 signatures on a petition, we have to have a Parliamentary debate.”

He could not recall a larger petition.

“I can’t remember a petition of this size ever in this area.

“There was just over 5000 for the Local Environment Plan, (LEP).

“There has been nothing of this magnitude.”

Mr Constance called on council to reverse its submission for a rate rise to IPART.

“I hope the council will reverse this,” he said.

“They don’t have to progress this; they can pull it at anytime.

“They could pull this now and they should.”

Councillor Milton Leslight, a driving force behind the petition, said it was a statement from the community.

“It is a great example of showing that the community has had enough,” he said.

“They aren’t being listened to.”

Asked by the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner if some petitioners may have signed more than once, Cr Leslight said that was “very likely”.

“It is very likely there may be doubles, because you have people who are passionate about this issue,” he said.

“We won’t know until we go through it.”

The petition rejected a rate rise of any size.

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