Major rates hike on cards

Byron Shire ratepayers face massive rate hikes thanks to a new State Government policy capping Section 94 - developer - contributions.

And some planned vital works across the shire may have to be scrapped because of the policy, according to Byron Council’s executive manager of planning, Ray Darney.

Mr Darney said with developer contributions capped, it would be left to ratepayers to tip in millions of dollars for much-needed and essential infrastructure to go ahead.

“If we don’t have the contributions, the necessary works can’t be done,” he said.

“It should not fall on existing ratepayers.”

Byron Council’s existing Section 94 plan is nearing the end of its 10-year life and the council has been working on a new plan.

Under the government’s new plan, councils will only be able to put a maximum $20,000 Section 94 levy on individual residential lots being developed.

Byron Council has been looking at a $30,000 levy for lots at Byron Bay in its new plan and around $20,000 for other areas of the shire.

Mr Darney said with several big residential developments in the pipeline at Byron Bay, he was concerned now about how the ‘extensive costs’ in providing infrastructure, especially dealing with traffic issues, would be met.

He said areas that could be affected included roads, sporting facilities and parks and gardens.

President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery, said there had been no consultation and no arrangements in place to help councils make the changes.

“This is going to make it incredibly difficult for councils who now have to start rolling this policy out overnight,” she said.

“The changes will mean huge rate increases, particularly in growth areas and within new developments.”

President of the Shires Association, Cr Bruce Miller, said under the policy, the government was deeming key infrastructure like libraries, community centres, swimming pools and playgrounds as non-essential.

Cr Miller said communities and new home buyers were likely to be the big losers, with higher rates to pay and less facilities for them to enjoy.

“This new policy also creates further financial uncertainty for councils,” he said.

“At the same time, we’re being asked to prepare long-term strategic plans with solid financial targets, but the government seems to just keep changing the rules, causing confusion among both councils and communities.”

Mr Darney said there would now have to be a review of the council’s proposed new Section 94 plan.

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