Latest News from Mayor Kathy Sajowitz - 27 June 2019

In 2015 the NSW Government requested the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review the local government rating system in NSW.  The purpose of the review was to develop recommendations to improve the equity and efficiency of the rating system, in order to enhance councils’ ability to implement sustainable fiscal policies long term. Included in the review was the eligibility of exemptions and concessions including unrateable land. This report was sent to the then Local Government Minister in 2016 and has languished in that office until now. Last week Minister Hancock released this long awaited report and has called for public submissions to the recommendations. As readers will be aware Oberon has long lobbied for a more equitable solution to the unrateable land issue affecting our LGA, forty seven percent of which is unrateable mainly through National Parks and NSW Forestry Corporation activities. The IPART report recommends that: General exemptions should be based on land use not land ownership, and land used for commercial or residential purposes should not be exempt, regardless of who owns it. This would help to ensure that land used mainly to deliver private benefits pays its fair share of rates. The report recommends that some explicit exemptions should be removed on the basis the land is used for a commercial or residential purpose. For example, land owned or vested in a water authority, land below the high water mark used for the cultivation of oysters, and (importantly for Oberon and other affected councils) land used for commercial logging. Council will be compiling a strong submission to the Office of Local Government to support some of the recommendations. The comprehensive report also covers a range of other issues and can be viewed in its entirety on the IPART website.  
The NSW Government 2019/20 budget was bought down last week, some of the highlights affecting rural areas are: $170mill Drought Stimulus Package for shovel-ready infrastructure projects, much of this will be channelled through local councils in drought-affected areas. Investment in water infrastructure to secure town water supply, and a change in the funding delivery method with projects not requiring positive economic benefit analysis but rather will be assessed on a needs basis. This augers well for Oberon, we are currently pursuing the balance of funding required for the Sewerage Treatment Plant upgrade. Public Library funding has been increased by 55% on a $ per capita basis and increased funding is available for library infrastructure and youth programs. To address the elimination of Mobile Black Spots in rural areas, the Regional Connectivity program has been allocated $97.2mill. There is $1 billion in new funding to fix local roads and timber bridges, although the total program budgets have been set at $500 million for roads and $500mill for bridges, it is disappointing that only $25 million for has been allocated for 2019/20. Readers may recall that this is the funding Deputy Premier John Barilaro MP indicated would assist with heavy haulage impact by Forest Operations on local roads. I look forward to seeing the guidelines around access to this funding. 

The pool upgrade has commenced with the installation of electronic roller shutters on the north eastern side of the pool, new pool blankets and the installation of clear sheeting within the eastern and southern walls allowing more light and sun to enter will complete the work. Over the next few weeks’ work will commence on the much anticipated Indoor Fitness Centre, it is envisioned the facility will open in late 2019. 

I was one of over sixty people who attended the Hospital Auxiliary’s seventy fifth Anniversary High Tea last Sunday. For any volunteer organisation to be working strongly for seventy five years is an amazing accomplishment. Thanks to the current and past committees for all their hard work to support our local hospital so well.