Evans' rate slug bites hard

THE Evans Head Fishing Co-op could be the next business in the town to shut its doors, thanks to the latest council rate rise, according to the co-op's deputy chairman, Kevin Aleckson.

The decision by Richmond Valley Council to introduce a unified rating structure at Tuesday's council meeting means the average business in Evans Head will pay an extra $1335 during the next two years.

Mr Aleckson said shutting down the co-op was 'definitely on the cards' because while the rates increase may not seem huge, it was a lot 'when you didn't have anything'.

While the co-op has been struggling during the past 18 months due to increases in the cost of fuel and rising overheads, he said the rate rise could very well be the 'straw' which breaks the business.

Woodburn-Evans Head RSL Club president Daryl Pobje also voiced concern about the rate increase, which means the club will have to pay an additional $14,000 a year.

“We only have a small community so I don't know where that money is going to come from,” he said.

“If the council keeps going like this they are going to kill us off.”

Owner of the Evans Head Butchery, Mitch Farlow, said that while he could afford the rate rise, it would still affect his business.

“This is a pension town and most people are on a fixed income,” he said.

“Because of that this rate rise means fewer people are going to be spending locally.”

Mr Farlow said two businesses in Evans Head had shut down in the past few months due to a lack of cash flow in the town, and that empty shopfronts were not uncommon.

He described the rate rises for businesses and residents – who will pay on average $295 more per household per year – as an attempt to 'suck blood from a stone' for a town with 'little infrastructure and few jobs'.

“People are really hanging on to their funds and cutting back on extras,” he said.

The ability of Evans Head to attract businesses to the town may be also affected by the unified rates structure, as businesses are lured by lower rates in neighbouring Casino.

Casino Chamber of Commerce President Janni Stevens agreed that the rating structures – which reduce the rates paid by businesses in Casino by an average $476 over a two-year period – would have a direct bearing on any business considering a move to Evans Heads or Casino.

While she feels sorry for business owners in Evans Head, Ms Stevens believes the unified rating structure will encourage more businesses to move into Casino.

“With rates reduced, landlords should pass this on to business owners, and that would mean lower rents,” she said.

Despite the unified rating system being passed at the council meeting, president of the Evans Head ratepayers group said they would protest the rise to NSW Local Government Minister Paul Lynch.

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