By STEVE GRAY
TENTERFIELD Shire Council ignored community concerns when it voted for a massive increase in rates, the Tenterfield Progress Association says.
Public comments on council’s website showed overwhelming opposition to council’s campaign for a Special Rates Variation (SRV) which would see rates rise by more than 80 per cent over the next decade.
A breakdown of the 43 public submissions showed that 37 of them, or 86 per cent, opposed council’s plan to apply for the SRV, Tenterfield Progress Association (TPA) president Robert Walker said.
Mr Walker said the letters were ignored by council despite being available weeks before councillors voted to apply for the SRV.
He said General Manager Lotta Jackson had said publicly there was “an overwhelming acceptance of the need by the community for a rate rise,” but submissions to council showed overwhelming opposition to the planned rise.
“Council requested these submissions on their website but then, because they didn’t go in the direction council wanted, they were ignored,” Mr Walker said.
“The vote was tainted because they didn’t take into account the evidence that people opposed the application for an SRV – evidence they had in their hands.”
Mr Walker said the TPA had received admissions from three councillors that
they did not take these submissions into account.
“Further, they were given the submissions at the 27 November meeting with other unrelated documentation, but were not told or instructed to take the submissions into consideration when posting their vote on the SRV,” he said.
“This has, no doubt rendered the SRV voting to be seriously flawed and the SRV application must be withdrawn and another submission called for.”
Mr Walker said councillors should have been told to consider the public submissions before casting their vote.
“Was the omission to instruct the councillors an oversight, in which case gross incompetence has occurred and someone has to take the heat,” Mr Walker said.
“Or was this a conscious attempt to ensure the SRV vote succeeded, in which case it may be attempted corruption.
“Whatever the answer, we need a full investigation into this unsavoury matter.”
TPA vice-president Richard Holland said the public submissions will be sent to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) as part of the group’s protest against the Special Rates Variation.