The New South Wales Government under the leadership of Mike Baird merged the three Councils of Harden, Young and Boorowa on May 12, 2016. Over two years later the State Government continues to fail to fully fund the mergers they gave residents no option to oppose.
Much of the cost still outstanding, revolves around the information technology system, apparently needed to bring the three former shires together. $2.65 million dollars is a lot of money, funding we don’t have. Whilst we rejoice in the glitter and new toys in which the Stronger Country Communities Fund is providing, we must understand one thing. We now have to maintain all the new infrastructure and this costs money.
Hilltops Council’s rates are currently set by IPART. The rate peg is 2.3%. The rate ‘freeze’ concludes in 2019/2020. There is little doubt whatsoever that rates will either go up to cover the costs of services or to bring the costs down, service levels will be lowered. The question is, will this meet community expectations? Will residents be happy to pay more for current services or improved services? or will they be happy to pay the same or less for less services?
Council is required to undertake a review of the rate structure of the former Councils and determine a Hilltops Structure and have it in place by 2021. The other major hurdle confronting the Hilltops area is the requirement to establish a new Local Environment Plan (LEP). I don’t for one minute believe that the current State Government is genuinely interested in seeing this area expand and grow with industry and housing. Otherwise the ridiculously arduous process of making a new LEP would be made far simpler. It will now take a minimum of 2 years to achieve any sort of useable LEP for the betterment of the Hilltops area. It will be the middle of 2020 at best when this may or may not happen. This time frame is far too long and communities will continue to suffer because of it. Cr Matthew Stadtmiller