Uralla branch chair of NSW Farmers David Mailler spoke at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Uralla Shire Council yesterday, called to decide a course of action on its declining financial position.
Council met to consider undertaking community consultation on the matter, and one option included submitting an application for a rate hike of 54.4 per cent.
Instead, council resolved to form a budget and finance review committee to take a detailed review of the council functions and budget. Though not tagged as such, the committee could appear to be a forerunner of a recommended improvement plan presented to the meeting as another option from Morrison Low consultants. It included a lower rate rise of 37.3 per cent, including the 10.38% rate peg over four years.
I think it was a great outcomeDavid Mailler
"What was really, really encouraging was that there was over 100 people turned up, on very short notice, on week work day. The number of leading farmers in the area that turned up was a very strong message to the shire council staff executive that we're all watching them closely," Mr Mailler said.
"Back when Fit For the Future was being argued, and Uralla argued [for] a stand alone council, there was a survey of ratepayers and residents done that accepted there might have to be a rate increase into the future. Residents were asked if they would accept a 10 or 20 per cent rate variation ... and most responded it would be an acceptable thing to go forward with."
Mr Mailler said he was happy with council's decision and he thought it was evident after the meeting that those present thought councillors had done the right thing.
"Councillors listened, they took note of the community's concerns and they've come up with a way forward that addresses not only the resident ratepayers concerns, but a way forward to identifying where potential savings might be, or alternatively, what the likely timing of a special rate variation might be the future," he said.
Uralla Mayor Michael Pearce said the message from the people in the room was loud and clear; that an SRV was not wanted.
"The concerns were their financial ability to pay. Concerns were for pensioners, impact on business owners and, more importantly, the impact on farmers during the horrible, horrible drought," said Cr Pearce.
"Obviously, down the track, something will have to occur. But, we'll be looking at all the avenues and looking for a way to satisfy all concerned."