Dear Beagle Editor,
Removal of pensioner concessions on rates for bushfire affected properties
It is very likely that many of your readers have received a rates notice from Council in which their previously-existing pensioner concession has been removed. My wife and I received such a notice and so I contacted Council and was advised that the concession had been removed because we are no longer living at the rateable address – as it was destroyed by fire.
On referring to the relevant legislation I found that, as advised, one needs to be living on the
property in question in order to qualify for the concession. And so, finding this impost more than a little irritating, on top of losing our home and paying rent while a rebuild is in progress, I made inquiries of our local member Andrew Constance and subsequently received the following advice from the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock.
“The NSW Government provides a 55% reimbursement to Council for the cost of providing the concession under section 575 of the Act.
“Regarding pensioner concession eligibility on properties destroyed by bushfires, an eligible pensioner will no longer be entitled to a concession under section 575 of the Act if there is no longer a dwelling situated on the land. Additionally, a pensioner will no longer be eligible for a pensioner concession under section 575 of the Act if there is still a dwelling situated on the land but he or she no longer occupies the dwelling as his or her principal place of residence.
“Even though pensioners may not be entitled to the pensioner concession in these circumstances, they may be entitled to rates relief from the NSW Government.
“In June 2020, the NSW Government announced this funding would be extended by a further six months. The rates relief now covers rates notices for Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 for 2019-20 and Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2020-21. https://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/media-releases/rate-relief- extended-for-bushfire-victims/
“Councils should direct bushfire affected ratepayers, including any pensioners, to Service NSW for assistance. Further information can be located at: www.service.nsw.gov.au/transaction/council-
“If a ratepayer believes their property has suffered damage beyond repair in the bushfires, and did not receive any notification of eligibility to the rates relief, they should call Service NSW on 13 77 88.
“Service NSW will also be able to provide information of other initiatives and relief bushfire affected ratepayers may be entitled to.”
So, the State Government has provided a waiver of the rates for fire-affected properties, for the September and December quarters, and has advised that “Councils should direct bushfire affected ratepayers, including any pensioners, to Service NSW for assistance.” I for one have not received such advice.
Over a week ago I shared the advice from the Minister for Local Government with Council and asked what was to be done, given the conflict between the rates notice and the Minister’s advice, but have not yet heard back.
It is my intention to attend a Service NSW Office and seek to arrange for the waiver, and I suggest that others whose home was either destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the fires, do likewise.
Deua River Valley