Resident wage war over rates bill
McLEANS RIDGES resident Vivienne Myler has had enough.
For more than 20 years she has been battling the Lismore City Council, arguing that she is being charged the wrong higher rate for her two-hectare block of land, which she has turned into a fauna and flora sanctuary.
The final straw came following an article published in The Northern Star in May, when the council again denied a 1988 hearing in the NSW Land and Environment Court had ruled in her favour.
When Cr David Yarnall raised the issue after the article was published, the council once again denied it, informing him in an email that ‘there is no evidence of a judgement against the council’ – and anyway, it added, all rates changed after the 1993 Local Government Act was introduced.
However, documents provided to this newspaper by Ms Myler prove the court indeed ruled in her favour on August 24, 1988.
Yesterday, Ms Myler labelled the council ‘a hopeless joke’.
“They have a multi-million dollar budget, but can’t keep their records in order,” she said. “It certainly makes me wonder how competent they really are.
“I had to go back to the court to get new copies of the documents, but the council should have records about all of this. How many times have they been to the Land and Environment Court?”
According to the email sent to Cr Yarnall, the council’s investigation following the May article consisted of a search of the court’s website.
After The Northern Star yesterday provided the council with copies of the court documents, it said it would take time to investigate.
“It’s 22 years old,” a spokesperson said. “Lismore City Council will further investigate, but as any rating information from 1988 is not readily available, answers to your questions cannot be provided today.”
The issue, which could cost the council thousands of dollars in compensation and potentially unleash an avalanche of claims from other residents, revolves around whether Ms Myler’s property is rated rural or rural residential.
When she bought her block of land in 1985 it was classified at the lower rural rate, but four years later the council started to charge her the higher rural/residential rate.
She went to the Land and Environment Court and won. Nonetheless, every year since she has been charged the higher rate.
Ms Myler said soon after the ruling she encountered family problems and didn’t have the time, or drive, to battle with the council when it continued to charge her the wrong rate.
Yesterday she said: “I’m not interested in the money, it’s about the principle, and the fact that they said my complaint never went to court, let alone that the court ruled in my favour.
“I wonder how many other people are being charged the wrong rates.”
The council yesterday said it would answer questions in full on Monday.