SRV: Council out to convince us
UNITING the Clarence Valley after five years of ferocious debate over a special rates rise will be a lengthy process says Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay.
The day after IPART granted the council leave to increase its base rate by 8 per cent per year for the next three years, Mr Lindsay said council would need to demonstrate to the community it was using the SRV money wisely to win its trust.
"The key thing is delivering on the reason behind why the council made the application for an SRV," Mr Lindsay said.
He said a key requirement was to spend much of the money it raised upgrading the region's sealed and unsealed road network.
"From my perspective we've begun this already with the decision to investigate better ways of delivering treatment to unsealed roads," Mr Lindsay said.
"Clearly the work we have been doing hasn't been good enough, so we need to find a better way.
"We're looking for new ways of sealing roads that makes what we do last longer."
Mr Lindsay said the new funding should allow council to move away from its historical reliance on "least cost options".
"We can start to look at quality treatments of the network that last for longer," he said.
Mr Lindsay said that over time this would lead to lower costs for the council maintaining roads and head toward an IPART forecast surplus of nearly $7million in 10 years.
But Mr Lindsay said this could be the sort of timeframe it would take to win over the community.
"It's going to take time for the community to see us deliver on what we say we're going to deliver on," he said.
While Mr Lindsay is trying to unify the Valley, opponents of the SRV say they have already found a way.
South Grafton businesswoman Annie Dodd disputed the debate had fractured the community.
"The majority of the community was united against the SRV," Ms Dodd said.
"We were out and about talking to people. We were able to get 5500 signatures or more on a petition opposing the SRV.
"We were going up and down the Valley getting signatures, passing on information. It was a very unifying thing."
She said opponents of the SRV felt gutted on Tuesday when they heard the news IPART had approved the full SRV.
The Grafton Chamber of Commerce was another body opposed to the rate rise. Its president, Justin James, said some businesses could go to the wall because they could not afford to pay the higher rates.
"The last thing they needed now was something like this that they just can't afford," he said.
He said the timing of the rates increase was also unfortunate.
"There are definitely businesses who are just starting to show some improvement, they will feel their futures are at risk again."
"The local economy has been on the up so we'll have to work that bit harder."
Inside the council, initial opponents of the SRV said exposure to the knowledge behind the decision led to a change of view.
Cr Greg Clancy said he had campaigned against the 41 per cent SRV, which IPART partially allowed two years ago.
"I never campaigned against an SRV," Cr Clancy said. "I always said I would not vote for an SRV in my first six months on council.
"Also I said I would not vote for an SRV while the council had not explored all its other options."
But he said after council cut 27 staff and reviewed its options while pursuing an SRV of just 26 per cent over three years, it convinced him to change his view.