Staff push for 7 year plan

By LEONIE BRANN

A REPORT to Tweed Shire Council administrators has recommended that the controversial Seven-Year Plan be included in the 2006-07 budget.

Shire staff have recommended the plan be adopted, before it is placed again on public display, prior to asking the Local Government Minister to increase rates over a seven-year period to pay for the plan's $133 million of infrastructure improvements.

The staff report, to be considered at the Council administrators' meeting tomorrow, was made after a large number of community responses to the seven-year plan.

Once the plan has been adopted as part of council's draft budget it will be placed on "formal exhibition", with the public given another opportunity to comment.

The plan envisages more than $30 million for the Jack Evans Boat Harbour revitalisation, a revamp of Arkinstall Park in South Tweed Heads, a rock wall at Kingscliff, and redevelopment of the swimming complex and a new multi-level car park at Murwillumbah.

Shire staff reviewed 2430 survey responses to the seven-year plan, with 73 submissions from individual ratepayers, 28 from community groups, six anonymous letters and three petitions.

According to the staff report, the community is divided on whether residential rate increases of 6 per cent and business rate rises of 15 per cent should be approved to pay for the infrastructure blueprint.

About 40 per cent of respondents to the plan held a "positive view" of paying increased rates for the infrastructure improvements, while 39.6 per cent held a "negative view".

An independent survey which canvassed 350 residents concluded that 57.4 per cent of respondents did not like the idea of increased rates, with 38.3 per cent in favour, according to the satff report.

"While everyone would clearly prefer to have these services provided without any increase in their rates bill, this is simply not an option," the report reads.

"Community input has demonstrated support for the proposed expenditure programs."



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