Richmond Valley hikes sewer rate by $300
By Rachel Scollay
Pam Brayley is 'white with anger' after the Richmond Valley Council voted to almost double its residential sewerage rates from $416 to $700 on Tuesday.
She said the increase was unaffordable, and would lead to 'abject poverty' for some ratepayers.
Feeling in Richmond Valley is running high and already two petitions are circulating, with nearly 1000 signatures on them.
Mayor Charlie Cox has warned councillors that some people may no longer say 'g'day' on the street, following the rate hike. Cr Col Sullivan said he was worried about the increase but it was unavoidable.
"I've had two or three ladies crying on the phone to me, saying they can't afford it," he said.
"But anything less will make it almost impossible for this council."
The hefty increase comes about because the council needs $66 million for capital works over the next 20 years to upgrade sewage treatment plants at Evans Head, Coraki and Casino, as well as a possible new plant for Broadwater.
Meanwhile State Government subsidies have decreased from 75 to 25 per cent, with Richmond Valley Council missing out in the latest funding round through lack of priority.
This was despite the fact the overloaded sewage treatment plant at Evans Head is leaching pollution into Broadwater National Park.
Cr Robert Mustow said the rate increase was necessary if they were to have any chance of persuading the State Government to come to the party.
"If we go down there and say we've only put the fees up to $600, (the Minister) will show us the door," he said.
"We need to show him that we are charging the community to the maximum of what they can afford to pay. Because I don't believe they can afford to pay any more."
Mayor Charlie Cox said councillors could not walk away from the issue through fear of what people would say.
He said he felt for people in the same way he felt for his wife who had to budget for their household.
"This will make it harder for us as well," he said.
"It hurts in the pocket and it hurts in the heart because there are people who will suffer more."
Mrs Brayley said Tuesday's meeting was a 'complete farce', because the councillors had already made up their minds.
She said she never realised how far removed they were from the reality of ordinary people's incomes.