Rate rise for Rockingham Growth

SEVERAL City of Rockingham councillors spoke in support of the City’s proposed 7 per cent rise to residential rates for the 2015/16 financial year.

Councillors Barry Sammels, Matthew Whitfield, Justin Smith and Chris Elliott remained steadfast in their support of the rate rise, while a motion from Cr Leigh Liley to direct the chief executive to draft a budget based on a 3.3 per cent rise was defeated.

The councillors put forward a strong defence of the rise to raise $70.35 million in revenue at Tuesday’s corporate and community development committee meeting, arguing it was necessary to deliver major projects outlined in the City’s business plan and to ensure future councils are not faced with their own rates hikes.

Both Crs Sammels and Elliott touched on the situation the council faced in 2012 in having to implement the first of significant rates increases because of the conservative rating of previous councils.

“If rates had been consistently applied at about 6 per cent, we would not have been in a position of significantly having to raise rates because it was not financially sustainable,” Cr Elliott said.

Cr Sammels said council had always been “very transparent” with its rating methodology and few councils around the country had to cater for the growth experienced by Rockingham.

“Five or six years ago, we talked about 15 per cent increases but it wasn’t a one-off, there were going to be other increases of 9 and 8 per cent after that,” he said.

“We’re very open and accountable, (whereas) some councils put their rate in the dollar, put a bunch of other charges on top and then come out and say ‘we’ve got a 3 per cent or 3.5 per cent rate rise’, when it’s more than that with those other charges on top of it.

“Not many councils in Australia, let alone WA, go through what we’re going through with growth. We’ve had to provide a lot of infrastructure (in growth areas such as Baldivis, Secret Harbour, Golden Bay and Singleton) and we need to continue to work hard.

“It would be easy to leave (rates) low, easy to have that for future councils to deal with in three, five or seven years, but we’ll probably be in a worse situation than we were six years ago.”

Cr Whitfield said he felt like he had a “target on (his) back” for the past month but supported the rise because the bigger issue was the vision for Rockingham’s future.

“We’re all looking at rates but it’s more than that,” he said. “We’re custodians of the future; residents want to live in the best city and have the best facilities and we need to provide them.”

Cr Smith added: “Previous councils should’ve done the hard yards (by implementing rises earlier) because of the growth and infrastructure that was coming.”

Councillors will vote to adopt the budget and rates next week.

The City of Kwinana was due to discuss a proposed 3.5 per cent rate rise on Wednesday night.