Ballina Public Library.
Ballina Public Library. Jay Cronan

Govt takes away councils' incentive

THE president of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils says there are no incentives for councils to build community facilities because of the charges forced upon them by the state government.

Phillip Silver, who is also the mayor of Ballina Shire Council, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for councils to find the money for major projects.

"First you have to find the capital," he said.

"Then you have to subsidise the operation (by paying for the ongoing operational and maintenance costs).

"And then the state government taxes you by charging rent.

"So there are huge disincentives to build things like libraries and art galleries."

Councils including Ballina, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Tweed have voted to ask the State Government to review the rents that councils pay for community facilities on Crown land.

For example the rent for the Ballina library precinct was originally $1, and is now $46,000.

Councils also have to give 50% of the rent they receive from commercial enterprises at these facilities to the government.

Cr Silver said one example was the Gallery Cafe in Ballina.

The council already forks out $110,000 a year in gallery costs and maintenance.

And while the council charges the cafe owners rent, half of that money is handed over to the state government.

Cr Silver said the government was "too tough" on councils.

"It seems illogical we have to pay rent on land that is owned by the community, where we have provided ratepayer funds to build the facility," he said.

"The State Government has a responsibility to manage its commercial assets as best it can.

"But I think councils should be treated a little differently."

Council general manager, Paul Hickey, said it was "difficult to maintain buildings when 50% of the gross rental is taken away without consideration of the operating costs. We would prefer they took 50% of the net rental instead of the gross rental."


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