16 June 2023

Queanbeyan and Bega Valley residents face rate rises

| Claire Sams
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Sign welcoming people to Queanbeyan

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council has had its full rate rise approved by the tribunal. Photo: File.

Queanbeyan residents are staring down the barrel of a dramatic rise in their council rates from 1 July.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has signed off on the full rise proposed by Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council of 64.3 per cent over three years, or 18 per cent per year in 2023/24, 2024/25 and 2025/26.

The increase is among the highest in New South Wales.

Queanbeyan Mayor Kenrick Winchester defended the decision, saying it was part of council’s “long-term financial sustainability”.

“Council chose this option in recognition of the significant feedback we received both about how difficult increasing rates would be on the community, but also how important council services are to the community, particularly in our rural and more remote areas,” he said.

Each year, IPART determines a maximum amount (a rate peg) that determines how much councils can increase rates.

If they want to go beyond this limit, councils need to apply and have their claim assessed.

Bega Valley Shire Council also had its full rate rise approved by IPART, while Snowy Monaro Regional Council received a partial approval.

These come in at 48.3 per cent over two years and 52.48 per cent over four years, respectively.

rate increase table

Seventeen councils had applied for special rate variations, with all but three being approved in full. Image: Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

For 2023/2024, the rate peg was set at 3.7 per cent, though an allowance for population increases meant it was increased to 6.8 per cent for some councils.

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In the Bega Valley Shire, ratepayers will face increases of 24 per cent in 2023/24 and 19.6 per cent in 2024/25 – a move council CEO Anthony McMahon said was partly down to needing money for upkeep of infrastructure in the shire.

“Council acknowledges the challenging nature of any rate increase for many community members, but we cannot stress enough the importance of bridging the expanding gap between income and expenses,” he said.

“We continue to actively work on reprioritising work plans, completing grant-funded projects and are committed to further reviewing asset and service priorities in future years to ensure future financial sustainability.”

For those in the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council area, some relief is on the way, with the expansion of a $40 pensioner rebate to cover all eligible pensioners.

It was previously available only to those in Queanbeyan.

“This rate variation addresses our long-term financial sustainability and ensures we can keep providing valuable services like essential road maintenance and upgrades, providing community facilities, libraries, sports fields, parks, amenities and community events,” Mayor Winchester said.

“While the rate variation increases the income council receives, part of the plan to address financial sustainability is also implementing the required budget savings of $5.5m per year.”

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Snowy Monaro Regional Council was one of just three that received a partial approval, alongside Tenterfield Shire Council and Federation Council.

This means residents there will face a 12.25 per cent increase in 2023/24, and an increase of 10.75 per cent per year in 2024/25, 2025/26 and 2026/27.

IPART Chair Carmel Donnelly said the tribunal had recently released a draft report calling for an independent investigation of the financial models used by councils in the state.

“This call for an independent investigation is in response to a broad range of issues people have highlighted during consultation with IPART, including financial sustainability of councils, financial management and the affordability and fairness of council rates.”

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