Nambucca Shire Council says stifling of debate by IPART is unfortunate

After a delay of two and a half years between its completion and its release, Nambucca Shire councillors were finally given access to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) investigation into the local government rating system.

Among reforms proposed was to use Capital Improved Value (CIV) as an alternative to Unimproved Value (UV) as the basis for setting the variable amount in rates.

The General Manager, Michael Coulter, said this was mainly directed at metropolitan areas where there had been substantial growth in apartments.

He also noted the increasing irrelevance of unimproved values as the basis of a community's capacity to pay rates.

Cr John Ainsworth said he could not see how such a system would work in the shire.

"This would mean every property would need to be separately checked ... and the cost of shifting to a new rating system would be astronomical - who would pick that up?" Cr Ainsworth said.

"It would also mean those who do nothing will have cheaper rates and those who develop will suffer.

"This is like a rush of hot blood to the head."

But even more galling to councillors was that many important reforms recommended by IPART were marked 'Not for consultation' on the Office of Local Government feedback form, thus barring the opportunity to comment.

"Why can't we comment? This needs to be taken to the local member and driven home."

The mayor, Rhonda Hoban, quipped that council's opinion was clearly not wanted.

Cr David Jones said a shift to CIV in Victoria was very costly and labour intensive requiring councils to have a separate in-house department with a valuer.

Cr Hoban said any proposed shift would require extensive modelling and community consultation.

"Given our limited resources, I can't see this being something to get too exciting about," Cr Hoban said.

Another reform proposal was that eligibility for rate exemptions be based on land use rather than ownership.

In his report Mr Coulter said the decision not to allow discussion was unfortunate as it undermined the process of engaging IPART, which is an independent statutory authority.

"By stifling discussion, stakeholders don't have the opportunity to carefully consider the strength of long term public benefit of any reforms," Mr Coulter wrote.

The council voted to provide feedback to the Office of Local Government (OLG) where permitted and to advise both the Minister for Local Government and the Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, of it's disappointment regarding the lack of opportunity to provide feedback.

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