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Editorial May 15th 2020

Welcome to this week’s editorial, Most of us have been distracted over recent months by calamity. Our summer was very poor for the many businesses that need a summer trade to survive through the winter months, our region was already in its fourth quarter of recession which was the justification for the State and Federal Government grants from their Regional Growth funds as a way to stimulate the economy via the construction of the Batemans Bay and Nelligen bridges and the Mackay Park grants for a new pool and theatre. While some may say that the timing of these grants prior to an election were questionable the end resultant would see an injection into the region of $350m with some of that remaining in the area by way of accommodation and supermarket spends by employees. Summer arrived with positive expectations that our local businesses might be able to trade well enough to survive but that daydream soon turned to a nightmare of bushfires, an exodus of tourists, and then Covid. The region has been left in shock. With already high unemployment, even higher under-employment and a high volume of casual seasonal workers our community is probably facing the highest unemployment rates it has experienced since the Depression. Initially the financial impact of the fires was primarily felt by those who were fire affected but in time we came to realise that the fires had impacted, indirectly, so many more. And while the Recovery process availed funds to those directly affected we learnt of those who were falling through the net. All of a sudden we had our own poor of poor. Destitute, barely able to make ends meet and now lining up for food and clothing. People, members of our community, who up until the fires were coping. Then came Covid to impact everyone collectively. Fortuantely there has been a net of sorts via Federal initiatives such as Job Keeper and Job Seeker and many of of our community now find themselves on these schemes … getting by as best they can. If anything the schemes are just keeping our collective heads above water. If things remain as they are and don’t change. But what if they do change? What if you discovered that during the Covid hibernation your council was intent on increasing your rates by 2.6%, by increasing your water and sewer rates and increasing the fees and charges they have on tennis court hire, swimming pool admission, oval hire, tip fees and all the things we pay for run by council. The councillors tell us it is OK. “it’s equal to the cost of a coffee each week” they say. While Bega Council and Shoalhaven Council have held long meetings to look at what cost savings they can apply and what fees they can waive for their residents such as excess water bills as a result of being bushfire attack Eurobodalla councillors have not met for seven weeks and are offering no waiving of residential fees while pressing on for the rate increase even though they are projecting a $6m surplus from their actions. Many have also found that their land valuations have increased. On average around 10% but in some cases up to 68%. While you might smile and think “this is proof my property is worth more” the valuation is for Unimproved Value and is used to calculate how much you pay in Council rates and Land Tax. So while your increase might look reassuring it is going to be used to extract even more rates from you in the coming year. At the end of the day the Council will be putting up rates by 2.6% based on your land value that just rose by 10%. If you pay rates you will have to pay these increases. You will have to direct your Job Keeper, Job Seeker or savings to paying them because there is NO option. Under Job Seeker and Job Keeper there will be many who can not afford to make ends meet. Mortgages will not be met, rents will not be paid and those with holiday houses will find that they now cost so much more per year to keep. There will be a disrupt in this sector and behind each story will be a family unable to afford the rents that have gone up due to rate increases. The silver lining however is that with so many houses affected by this there will be a downturn in the housing market as people sell and move. Rents will be forced down and with that will be the valuation of land that will force down Council’s capacity to gouge revenue from its ratepayers. If only they hadn’t been so greedy. Until next—Lei

While you weren't watching Council has moved to put up your rates, water, sewer and fees and charges while the Valuer General has increased your land value so that you will pay more.