More than 150 people turned out at Evans Head last night to voice their objection to Richmond Valley Council’s rates proposal for 2008/9, which has been described as unfair by the Evans Head and District Rateapyers and Residents Association.

“In a series of motions the meeting rejected unanimously Council’s proposed ‘unified rating structure’ which would see the ratepayers of Evans Head subsidising Casino, the residents and businesses of the former Richmond River Shire Council paying hefty increases in their rates for next year, and rates in Casino fall even though the Minister has approved a 7.5% increase in rates for 2008/9,” association president Richard Gates said.

“The meeting demanded that Council put in place a rating structure which treated all residents fairly in keeping with Council’s charter under the 1993 NSW Local Government Act where Council may raise funds by ‘the fair imposition of rates’.

“The meeting asked Council to consider the consequences of its actions, which Council has not done, but is required to do under the Local Government Act.”

Dr Gates said local business owners and residents spoke about the impact Council’s ‘unfair rating structure would have on the lower river area, and consequently for all ratepayers’.

“The meeting also moved to ask the Minister for Local Government for an investigation of Council’s proposed unfair rating structure. The motion was passed unanimously.

“A final motion asked Council to provide a plausible explanation, within seven days, for its decision to proceed with its unfair rating structure as Council had not yet provided an adequate explanation other than ‘it was easier for Council to administer’.

“Council’s argument that because all ratepayers pay the same for water and sewerage, it supported their unified rating structure proposal, was shown to be wrong.

“If we are all paying the same for water and sewerage and that principle should apply to rates, then why will some ratepayers be paying a lot more than others under Council’s proposed structure?”

Ratepayers opposed to Council’s unfair rating proposal were invited to sign a petition to go to the Minister for Local Government.