Levy hides rate increases

CLOSE to $1 million has been collected from ratepayers since amalgamation for the council's $25 environment levy.

And in this latest rates round the council expects to raise $1.2 million “to fund environmental protection activities and climate change initiatives”.

In a letter earlier this month to a Maryborough ratepayer, who handed a copy to the Chronicle, council's financial revenue manager Rodney Faint explains how the levy is being used.

“Council collected an estimated $3.46 million under the previous Hervey Bay Council scheme of which $696,000 remains in reserves,” Mr Faint wrote.

“All the money will be used to buy environmentally significant land.

“The council has also collected $950,000 since amalgamation, which will also be used to buy environmentally significant land within the region.”

The environment levy has been expanded, he says, “to provide critical funding to address a broader range of environmental issues facing the Fraser Coast”.

One of those covers community and environmental activities that directly relate to the protection, enhancement, management and monitoring of the natural environment. The restoration and maintenance of land contiguous to environmentally significant land, like riparian or fauna movement corridors, is also mentioned.

“While additional purchases of remnant bushland have not been identified at this stage, the policy does not prevent the levy being used for this purpose should priorities change or key land be identified.”

Mr Faint says proposed projects for this year include $60,000 for climate change and sustainability initiatives, $150,000 for coastal management, $440,000 for coastal protection and $420,000 for natural areas.

He tells the ratepayer that the levy doesn't attract a discount and if he doesn't pay it “it will attract interest”.

Hervey Bay ratepayer Graham Berry, who opposes the council's stated intention on how it plans to use the levy, says that since June this year “the council has expanded its use of the levy to include all these other things and in the next 10 years' budget projections they have put no money from that levy towards environmental land purchases”.

“This is just a cover-up to hide an increase in the general rate.”

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