BALLINA'S mayor David Wright has defended the move by the council to apply for a permanent rate increase above the pegged limit set by the NSW Government.
The proposed cumulative rate increase of 15.7% above the standard rate peg limit, if approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), will be applied in two parts over 2018/19 and 2019/20, and then become a permanent increase.
The additional income aims renewals to key infrastructure such as roads, stormwater, playgrounds, and community buildings, but also to fund a Healthy Waterways Program which aims to improve the health and amenity of water bodies such as the Richmond River, Lake Ainsworth, Shaws Bay.
In responding to criticisms the proposal comes at a time when the increasing cost of living, particularly when it comes to power bills, is in the headlines, Cr Wright said Ballina Shire still had the lowest rates in the region.
"We live in the best shire with the lowest rates," he said.
He also responded to criticisms of council increasing rates to fund improvements to the Richmond River, when the major part of the river lies outside Ballina Shire.
He said a council survey undertaken before the last election indicated the health of the river was the highest priority among Ballina Shire ratepayers.
NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian admitted during a visit to Ballina a few months ago that she knew nothing of the problems associated with the river, which received a rating of D minus in a 2014 Ecohealth report.
But Cr Wright said "something had to be done" and Ballina council was leading the way in highlighting the problems of the river.
A public meeting held to explain the findings of that report - held days after the premier visited - was funded by council's Healthy Waterways program.
Cr Wright said council's program might also make it easier to get grants for some of the shire's other important projects like dredging North Creek and the Richmond River bar.
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