The NSW Government today announced it will fund a full year of council rate relief for owners of homes, farms and businesses lost in the bushfire crisis. The relief package covers the land rates component and fixed service charges, such as waste, sewerage and water, where the amount is included on the council rates notice. Water charges are paid where it is a council-owned water utility. Any eligible ratepayer who has already paid their rates will receive an automatic credit against their account or can speak with their council regarding a refund. In March 2020 the General Manager of Eurobodalla Council, Catherine Dale, advised that the "Devil was in the detail" advising affected residents that "a helping hand comes with conditions."
“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.
“I have no doubt the government’s announcement was a genuine attempt to alleviate hardship on people already devastated by the fires,” Dr Dale said of the first announcement by the State Government adding "However, imposing conditions on the funding weeks later without any advice or explanation to councils or ratepayers is proving problematic.”
Dr Dale said in March that 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 in March after the first rates assistance announcement was made that 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.
It is not known how the Eurobodalla Council will respond to today's (June 30th, 2020) announcement by Deputy Premier and the Minister responsible for disaster recovery John Barilaro saying that "the government is extending council rate relief for eligible property owners affected by the bushfires to help them recover and rebuild their lives and businesses." “In February 2020 the NSW Government announced it was funding six months of council rate relief for owners of homes, farms and businesses whose properties suffered damage beyond repair in the bushfires,” Mr Barilaro said. “Now the government is announcing that we will fund a further six months of rate relief for eligible property owners to ensure they can direct more of their finances towards rebuilding their lives and businesses.” Minister for local government Shelley Hancock said the government has already provided more than $2.4 million in council rate relief to ease the financial burden on bushfire victims. “The NSW Government is committed to helping our local communities recover and rebuild from the devastating bushfires,” Mrs Hancock said. “That’s why Service NSW has already paid out more than $2.4 million in council rate relief for property owners in 34 local government areas whose homes, farms and businesses were lost in the bushfires. “Importantly this funding is paid directly to the local council, meaning ratepayers don’t have to pay anything, and it does not cost local councils anything to support these property owners.” Council rate relief already paid out covers rates notices for quarter 3 (January – March) and quarter 4 (April – June) for 2019-2020. The six-month extension will cover rates notices for quarter 1 (July – September) and quarter 2 (October – December) of 2020-2021. The NSW Government recently announced its unprecedented bushfire support has hit $2.3 billion in funding, with 2500 destroyed properties cleared so far, at zero cost to property owners. Bushfire recovery funding from the government has been distributed through grants, temporary accommodation, clean-up and industry support.
Above: John Barilaro visited the Morrison family in Cobargo to announce the NSW Government’s bushfire clean-up program has met the initial 2,800 property clearing target and to commit $26 million in further support for communities through a rebuild and housing strategy.
To find out more about the rebuild program or to register to have your property cleared for free, call Service NSW on 13 77 88. Photo: John Barilaro