No to rate hike
By PETER CATON
TWEED Shire's administrators yesterday axed a proposed six per cent rise in council rates bills - and in doing so froze plans for massive infrastructure spending in Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah.
Put on indefinite hold were a $2 million upgrade of the Murwillumbah swimming complex plus adjacent car- parking for the town's CBD and $1.5 million of works in central Tweed Heads. Also shelved were plans to spend $360,000 towards the Bilambil Regional Tennis Centre.
However one of the three administrators who voted to freeze the works, former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull, says she believes ratepayers "will be very happy their rates aren't going up" as much as previously planned.
Under budget proposals pushed by recently sacked councillors, rates would have risen by six per cent. That was above the 3.5 per cent increase which could have been imposed without special state government approval.
The extra 2.5 per cent now won't be sought under the changes pushed by the chairman of the council's three administrators, NSW Local Government Department director general Garry Payne.
The six per cent rise would have cost almost half of all ratepayers who pay minimum general rates $29.65 a year.
They will now only pay an extra $17.55.
Under Mr Payne's budget changes, work will however begin immediately on "developing a long-term program" for varying future rates.
Locally-based administrator, former councillor Max Boyd, managed to save two programs which were set to be frozen, arguing they could be funded from savings in the budget.
They include $350,000 for stage two of the new Tweed River Regional Art Gallery on the outskirts of Murwillumbah and $495,000 for a respite care centre.
Council general manager Dr John Griffin also successfully argued that a $250,000 Tweed Coastline Management Plan could be funded from the savings.
Mr Boyd later said the budget changes would put "on hold for a year" projects such as the planned two-level Murwillumbah car park and the swimming complex upgrade but the works would be given high priority in the future.
He said Mr Payne had convinced him year-by-year budget planning should end.
"It really comes from Mr Payne who explained to us today the way which he believes it is better to go," he said.
"We are not shelving these projects altogether. What hasn't been taken up this year will be very high on the list in the next and succeeding budgets."
Mr Payne said council staff would investigate if funds were available to start some of the projects but added: "We didn't vote on the projects. We voted on the money."
Under a further change to the council's management plan, Mrs Turnbull successfully moved for urgent reviews to introduce "new locality plans" for particular precincts of the shire.