ECA Defends Non Resident Ratepayers and Brown's claim that non resident owners are “millionaires"

Eurobodalla Coast Alliance has demanded withdrawal of a local Councillor’s claims that non resident property owners are “millionaires”.

The claim was made on Tuesday by Councillor Lindsay Brown during a debate on whether the Shire should increase rates this year. Despite an attempt by some Councillors to minimise the increase the Council finally decided to hike rates by 2.6 percent, the maximum allowed by the State Government. Clr Lindsay Brown June 23rd Council meeting: "So these people who are outside the shire are quite well off and assume they've got several properties. That works out to be about 10,000 people, 10,000 rate notices." "What we are doing is actually targeting the 10,000 who live in the shire and pay rates and you are giving a discount to the you know, The Bridge Plaza, the super funds, the multi millionaires that don't live in the shire". "Is that what we are trying to do?" ECA President Russell Schneider has written to Mayor Liz Innes saying :

“A number of Eurobodalla property owners have asked me to express their disgust at comments allowed to be made about non-resident ratepayers by Councillor Lindsay Brown at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“In supporting a 2.6 percent increase in Council rates at a time when many ratepayers, both resident and non-resident, are suffering severe financial distress Councillor Brown’s comment that non- resident ratepayers were “millionaires” was in my opinion and that of those who have approached me insensitive, inaccurate and totally inappropriate. We believe he should have been made to withdraw and apologise at the time.

“There is no evidence to suggest non-resident ratepayers are “millionaires”. Many have purchased, or are in the process, of purchasing property in Eurobodalla with a view to ultimately retiring here. In many cases this has involved considerable financial sacrifice from people who have worked hard all their lives. Others have been forced to move to Canberra or other places for health or employment reasons, but retained their Eurobodalla property. Those who may have purchased property for investment purposes have found their rental income reduced or non-existent due to Covid 19 requirements allowing tenants who had lost their jobs to avoid or minimise rent payments.

“Many of these “millionaires” were unable to use their holiday properties due to the road closures which were made necessary by the bushfire. Those who did come found their holidays disrupted as they attempted to defend their, and their neighbors’, properties before being ordered to leave the Shire. Many made their unoccupied properties available to those who had lost their homes as a result of bushfires, in many cases at reduced or no cost. The bushfires and Covid 19 devastated any holiday rental income they may have been relying on. In many cases this year their rates bill will exceed their property income.

“As non residents they receive very little value from Council services. Indeed, the rates they pay effectively subsidise the provision of those services to residents, many of whom do not pay rates. Their contribution should be respected, not reviled.

“When they do visit the Shire (which for several months was impossible due to both fires and Covid 19) they contribute significantly to the local economy. They not only purchase good and services from local businesses, but also, if they wish to make any improvements to their properties, contribute fees and charges to the Council. They should be respected, not reviled.

“Councillor Brown’s comments represent the worst of the politics of envy and are totally misplaced. It was most unfortunate that what many consider to be his disgusting attack on non residential ratepayers was allowed proceed without interruption. At the very least he should be required to withdraw and apologise.”