Why this businessman is disgusted by rate debate
WITH shops in Ballina, Lismore and Casino, long time menswear retailer David Gooley can give an 'apples for apples' comparison of just how high rates are in the Lismore CBD.
At one of his three Lismore stores, he pays $26,000 a year to council.
For the same sized shop in Casino, he pays just $8000.
"I don't get any better service than what I do in Casino,” Mr Gooley said.
"They clean the street, empty the rubbish, and provide water.
"Lismore is a better business town, but it still doesn't compensate for the rates.
"We pay eight times more than what Ballina pays.”
Another commercial property he owns in Lismore is tenanted by a "major retailer” who he recently gave free rent for six months to entice them to stay.
Effectively, he elected to cover the financial gap eaten up by massive council rate bills out of his own pocket.
Not all landlords would have done the same.
That's why Mr Gooley welcomed Lismore City Council's vote on Tuesday to hand back an average $1000 to Lismore CBD ratepayers during this financial year.
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith's mayoral minute was hotly debated by councillors, only passing six votes to five.
While there are some political reasons for that, for Mr Gooley said he was appalled by the arguments made against the cut while sitting in the public gallery.
He said there were "deliberate lies” being touted by some councillors against the cut when the truth about excessive business rates was "black and white”.
He applauded the rate rebate as a "baby step”, but if the council truly wanted to get on top of the problem they would need to be taking "giant leaps”.
He said the case was clearly made at prior meetings, in a presentation showing the value of Lismore commercial property, its rents, and rates, compared with other areas.
"It's so black and white it's unbelievable,” he said.
Mr Gooley, who spends most of his time in his Ballina store now, said the problem was causing Lismore to stagnate.
"No property investor wants to invest in Lismore when you can spend the same in Tweed to Ballina and your property's going to grow in value.”
By cutting rates, and enticing property developers and investors to step into commercial real estate in Lismore, the town would become vibrant again.
He said the council needed to focus their priorities, and the future of Lismore status as a regional centre depended on it.
"I don't think the money's been spent wisely. They just need to get the basics right... tidy it up a bit.”
"I think it's really important for Lismore. As much as I've got shops in other areas, Lismore is still my home town.”