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Council issues threatening rates demand to burnt out property owners

Imagine opening the mail to find a letter from Council demanding immediate payment of rates on your burnt out property and being told that interest is accruing on a daily basis at 7.5% While the 688 home owners in the Eurobodalla are aware of the political fanfare in the announcement of the NSW government’s offer to cover half a year of council rates for properties destroyed by bushfires they are NOT aware that "the helping hand" comes with conditions. Council's General Manager said on March the 11th “The NSW government has advised it will only reimburse councils for the ordinary rates component. This means all other charges that appear on your rates notice like levies for environment and stormwater will not be refunded. And in the case of councils like ours that provide water, sewer and waste services, those amounts won’t be reimbursed either." Dr Dale said the media announcement on 4 February made no distinction between ordinary rates and the other charges residents find on their rates notice.

“And unlike metropolitan councils, most regional and rural councils provide water, sewer and waste services to their communities. Ironically, the local government areas hardest hit by the fires will end up receiving least benefit,” she said.

"In Eurobodalla, 688 properties were deemed eligible for the six months of rates reimbursement. Service NSW counts destroyed or uninhabitable properties eligible.

Dr Dale said Eurobodalla Council expected a refund of around $750,000, however, the reimbursement on offer at the moment is roughly $300,000 short of that figure.

“Overdue rates notices will go out today (March 11th), but we’ve held back the notices for Eurobodalla’s 688 eligible properties until this can be sorted out,” she said. It appears by the letter just received by one of the burnt out properties that NOT all notices were held back as Dr Dale said would be. Council is very clear from Dr Dale's statements that they will be looking to have burnt out properties pay for all the other fees and levies irrespective of whether their home still stands or not. "This means all other charges that appear on your rates notice like levies for environment and stormwater will not be refunded. And in the case of councils like ours that provide water, sewer and waste services, those amounts won’t be reimbursed either." Dr Catherine Dale, Eurobodalla General Manager, March 11th 2020 As you can see below there is no explanation of this in the rate demand indicating Council's failure to recognise that the affected Eurobodalla community may not have read the GM's media release.

We publish below a letter to the editor received today: Eurobodalla Shire Council I did not overlook my rates. My house burnt down on the 23rd January as you have been repeatedly advised and I am registered with the NSW Government for rate relief since early February. This matter will now be referred to the NSW Local Government Ombudsman How much administrative trauma do bushfire impacted families have to deal with ? Names supplied

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Editors Note: Unfortunately the Council is bound to respond saying they communicated the facts of the matter by way of a media release (available on its website, published on March 11th) and that while the waiving of the GENERAL rate may have been offered for two quarters Council is NOT obliged to waive its other fees and charges. It appears from the letter extract above that Council failed in its duty to advise the recipient of the "Devil in the detail on rate support" assuming that the recipient understood that all of their rates had in fact not been waived and they were now financially obligated with a daily rate of 7.5% being charged until payment was made.

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