By TONY FOSTER OAM
AS the State election approaches, Brighton residents may have heard and read about calls from the group Tasmanian for Reform, for the State Government to force Councils to amalgamate.
Tasmanians for Reform is in reality a front for the Property Council, and an organisation comprised of the owners of big city office blocks, shopping centres, large properties and their associates who think that by forcing local government amalgamations and with it rate equalisation, the rates on their properties would fall.Of course, for this to happen and for local government to have the same revenue necessary to provide services for all ratepayers, the rates for householders and smaller property owners would have to increase.
To explain rate equalisation under the Property Council’s aim of having a greater Hobart Council comprising the current Hobart, Clarence, Glenorchy, Kingborough and Brighton, the rates of the five municipalities would be averaged to establish a common rate. As Brighton enjoys the lowest rates in Tasmania, this would mean a substantial increase for our ratepayers, with no increase in services and facilities. Indeed, if a Hobart ‘super’ Council was to be dominated by big central city interests, services to smaller outer areas such as Brighton would likely be reduced.
Council has taken expert advice and this shows that under such a model, household rates in Brighton would have to go up by a massive 40 percent to match those in the other four municipalities. So while amalgamation may look good to the big property barons and their central Hobart buildings, it would be bad news for Brighton ratepayers.
Our community can be assured that Brighton Council will not accept this. We have already made representations to government and campaigned to oppose any forced amalgamations. We are also at the forefront in boosting efficiency among Councils through sharing services, facilities and equipment that has resulted in considerable savings and provided additional revenue opportunities.
I urge ratepayers to also let our politicians know that they are not in favour of forced amalgamations just to benefit big city property owners. The Property Council wants to make this an election issue, so we have to tell our MPs and those seeking election that it is unacceptable.
Ratepayers should contact their local Members of Parliament and candidates standing at the 15 March election and ask them their views of forced Council amalgamations. Make no mistake, any candidate supporting the Property Council’s position is supporting increased rates for Brighton and that is just not on!