Outrage as rate rise hits home for Burrum Heads retiree
IN THE four years he's lived in Burrum Heads, John Craig has hardly seen his rates bill go up.
But the retired accountant got a shock when his latest rates notice for his un-sewered Riverview Dr block had increased by 20.9 per cent.
It's left Mr Craig with burning questions about the Fraser Coast Regional Council's new rates system, which he claims is a form of "rates gouging".
His property is one of 7000 across the Fraser Coast which received a pre-emptive letter from the council warning of a potential rates increase due to changes in State Government-controlled land valuations and general rate category re-classifications.
He rejects the council's claim the rates model is more "fair and equitable" .
"A property around the corner got a five per cent reduction on their rates," Mr Craig said. "And it's too late to contest it with the Valuer General's office because we only get 30 days to do it.
"How can it be called equitable when one person pays five per cent less and another 21 per cent more for exactly the same service?
"Nobody else goes to the coffee shop and pays $5.90 for a coffee when everyone else has paid $3.50."
Mr Craig and other residents in the area met with councillors Rolf Light and Anne Maddern.
While he conceded the councillor's hands were "half-tied" over the issue, it seemed "one-sided" to say it was entirely to do with changing land valuations.
"A good way to counter the problem would be to put a reasonable cap on the increase, not a massive 20 per cent change," Mr Craig said.
But councillor Light insisted the new model was still fair and valuations had resulted in street-by-street variances.
"The council is not collecting any more than last year, which is effectively a zero per cent rate revenue increase," Cr Light said. "However, valuations have unfortunately resulted in some people paying more, and in most cases less.
"We were proactive, we got out there and indicated to people if they thought their valuations were unfair, they had the opportunity to object."
The council has been in damage control since the notices of rate increases were first issued several weeks ago.
It's customer service centre was overrun with thousands of calls about the notices in just one day.
Chamber of Commerce presidents have also warned about the impact of rate changes on small businesses.