Monday, April 20, 2015

Eurobodalla – Not fit for the future?

Eurobodalla – Not fit for the future?

Eurobodalla Shire currently fails 4/5 criteria set by IPART for independent viability. Our Shire has an inadequate rate-able base to sustain its infrastructure and even basic essential council services, AND THIS SITUATION WILL WORSEN if jobs are lost and income generating residents are forced to leave.

Analysis of current and projected ABS economic data reveal that Eurobodalla fails the "Fit for the Future" fitness test and the forecast is for a downward spiral into poverty, business closures, forced relocations and community fragmentation. 

Eurobodalla residents have little to no capacity to sustain increased economic pressure:

Our economic profile:

55% of residents have an income < $1250 a fortnight
30% are retired, many are on fixed incomes 
< 10% of the Shire population earns over $2000 a fortnight, compared with the state average of almost 30% (2011 census). 
40% youth unemployment above NSW state average
30% of residents are employed (13300 out of 37600)

The average yearly income comparison:
NSW =$68000
Bega Valley = $45000 
Eurobodalla = $33000

Rates in the Eurobodalla:
Despite a compromised capacity to pay, our charges are higher than Bega and Shoalhaven. Councils’ debt projections are set to increase by $40 million over the next ten years, unless they are permitted to keep putting up the rates. This means repeated increases of 26% plus every four years. On top of the base average $800 p.a. rate are the other 43% of charges which include water and sewerage availability.
We need to increase our rateable base:
As Council already subsidises thousands of dollars in rate subsidies for those that cannot afford their rates, those that who can will have to pay more, as will businesses. But what happens if those people who can pay decide to leave the shire? Some commentators believe that 100,000 people are now the minimum number of people to sustain a local government area. With our reputation for obstructive and unresponsive local government, it is unsurprising that prospective investors and potential residents opt for the neighbouring shires.

Examples of the anti- development attitude include the attempts by investors to open a retirement village and run the airport. The Bunnings development
took nearly eight years of negotiations sending a message to other companies not to waste time, effort and money considering Eurobodalla.

Our shire is seen by others as lacking in both foresight and economic development, and the requisite fiscal responsibility to sustain our own communities and environment. A risky place to commit to or invest in. Move on, nothing to see here.
Which brings us to the big question - are we Fit for the Future?
T Corp, the government’s financial arm, told us in 2013 that the economic outlook for the Eurobodalla Shire was rated as MODERATE, versus SOUND for Bega and Shoalhaven. With the underlying financial statement of long term losses, many councils have been told that unless they improve, they will die. ESC tenuously meets only 1 of the 5 criteria for viability.
Economic activity and sustainable jobs growth are the ONLY way to ensure a viable future for the whole community - especially our youth. Councils’ blatant misrepresentation that we are “forging ahead” is starkly illustrated in the table below:
Residential Building approvals figures comparing the Eurobodalla with Bega Valley and Shoalhaven shires since the turn of the century:
Year                          ESC    Bega   Shoalhaven
13-14                         174      168        524
12-13                         122      136        499
11- 12                         95       150        399
10-11                          83       180        486
09-10                        127       138        504
08-09                          91       119        378
06-07                        163         90        434
05-06                        236       150        460
04-05                        292       189        734
03-04                        419       215        993
02-03                        445       244        1065
01-02                        407       270        1168
 ( ***Shoalhaven are about 2.4 x the size of our population, Bega just slightly smaller)
This data begs the question...What happened to our Shire between 2007 -14? What was the planning departments’ agenda and policy direction during this timeframe? Government cannot create wealth - at best through sound policy, and allowing adequate growth, they preserve the capacity for enterprising communities to realize their potential.
Ask yourself a few questions:
What happens to this equation if those who generate the wealth leave?
Are you currently getting more or LESS service for your increased outlay compared to 5 years ago?
What are the services we get actually worth? What do they COST? what should they ACTUALLY COST?
Which services are essential and can only be, and should continue to be, provided by the council?
Which services and operations should council axe? How many unnecessary services are jobs for the boys?
What is the ERA position?
ERA assures you that there will be a scare campaign that unless we stay ‘as we are’ things will only get worse - such as the unproven claims by the mayor that we would have to pay higher rates if we amalgamate. Many in the ERA would like to see the council maintained, but changed dramatically to become efficient. Good management is a start. Others passionately believe that amalgamations are the only way forward. The problem is there is NO debate.
Community debate on a sustainable future lacking:
Will council comply with the directive to engage with the community towards a sustainable future? Perhaps like Victoria, the State government will have to step in and force through change because the local vested interests are too strong. Allowing the council to solve the problem on their own will be a disaster, as they cannot recognise there is a problem. It is a problem that may require substantial staff reductions and the discontinuation of a range of services and operations.
By now, Council should be in full discussion with its community on how it sees the council in the future, if there is to be an adequate debate by June 30th. However there has been an irresponsible silence on the issue, despite Council having been instructed to engage with the community, to discuss everything from mergers of backroom services to amalgamations. This amounts to a failure to recognize the gravity of the situation.  So called efficiencies in closing tourism offices and associated personnel will save about 1% of the budget. Why is trivia being discussed and not the big picture?
What is the solution?
We need more wealth generating people to come and live here, and more wealthy people to visit, live and spend money here - at the moment, both these groups are being diverted to shires north and south by the policies and attitudes of our council.
Our local wealth generation is dependent upon tourism and hospitality, building, manufacturing and primary production. We need council to desist from stifling economic growth by withholding building approvals and business development that create real, meaningful sustainable jobs. We need council to facilitate the development of local enterprises, value adding to existing resources, and the building of local infrastructure. We need to be unencumbered from developing existing markets, products and services that other people value.
Perhaps the best result for the community would be for Eurobodalla Shire Council to cease to exist, if it cannot respond to meet the needs of the community, and chart a course for a sustainable future.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Welcome to our ERA blog pages

Welcome to our ERA blog pages.

This Blog page is part of our Three Tiered commitment to engage with our community.

Our primary site to keep you informed is our ERA website where you will find our latest and archived newsletters and media releases along with contact information and our Aims and Objectives.

The second is via our Eurobodalla Ratepayers Facebook account where supporters are kept abreast of news and updates.

The third, this blog, will also inform you of the latest news and updates and allow you to participate in discussions and make comment on issues raised.

Our ERA supporters are always encouraged to email or phone us with any questions or concerns. Visit our Contacts page  for more information