Should the Forestry Corporation pay council rates?
KYOGLE Council looks set to join the fight to make state-owned forestry plantations pay rates, providing the council with much-needed revenue for bridge and road repairs.
At tonight's Kyogle Council meeting, a mayoral minute will be debated on the issue.
It calls for a Kyogle councillor to be appointed to the Local Government of NSW Working Party for Unrateable Forestry Plantation Land and Forestry Road Infrastructure Contributions in Local Government.
The first meeting of the working party was held in October, and is made up of councils which have high levels of non-rateable land, including forestry plantations, national parks and state forests.
More than one third of the Kyogle Council area is non-rateable.
Kyogle Council's participation in the working party would provide it with a seat at the table to discuss the challenges around failing infrastructure on non-rateable land.
The working party is calling on the NSW Government to "abolish the rate exemption that currently applies to operational land managed and worked by the Forestry Corporation of NSW”.
It also wants the government to "introduce a system for transport infrastructure contributions by forestry corporations to address the ongoing infrastructure maintenance, upgrade and renewal needs of council roads”.
"This is specifically to address the roads, bridges, culverts and drainage infrastructure impacted upon by forestry operations, especially but not limited to heavy forestry vehicles,” the working party report states.
"The Forestry Corporation of NSW, a state owned corporation, manages over 2000 square kilometres of pine plantation in NSW, but does not pay any rates on these land holdings.
"However, these landholdings are clearly used for commercial purposes.
"Forestry Corporation of NSW's plantations support world class processing and paper pulp industries with an estimated economic output of $517 million.
"The corporation's annual report for 2014/15 details a profit of $45 million.
"In contrast to the Forestry Corporation's plantations, owners of private plantations are required to pay rates on these landholdings which contribute to local service provision including local road and bridge infrastructure used in the transport of logs from plantations.
"This issue mainly relates to the ongoing road and bridge infrastructure maintenance and upgrade needs of council roads used by the forestry industry in the transport of forestry products from plantation to mill, especially the increased damage caused by heavy logging vehicles, without the availability for any compensation / rating revenue from plantation owners using these roads.”