Letter to the editor: Alternative Fact​s

Cr Jennie Fenton is reported as saying planning for a road network should have started 20 years ago. It did!

The Engineer in the early nineties reported to Council on the amount required to bring transport infrastructure up to an acceptable standard.

After reading his report, I did some calculations on the rate increase I thought was necessary to fund that amount and maintain the assets. I estimated that rates would need to increase by 70-100%, assuming that no money was forthcoming from elsewhere.

Clearly, an increase of that size was out of the question but something had to be done. I reported to Council on the need for a Special Rate increase to start to attack the backlog.

The Council at the time resolved to seek a 10% increase, to be expended on improving school bus routes as the first priority. There was the predictable community outcry at the proposal but the Council resolved to proceed with the application.

The State Government in its infinite wisdom granted approval for a 5% increase which from memory was around $150,000 per annum. Had the requested increase been approved, I estimate that an extra $5 million would have been available to fix roads and bridges over the last 20 years. The community has had the benefit of lower rates over that period but at significant cost in terms of condition of assets.

Should more Special Rate increases have been sought? Possibly, but the 2005 Environmental Levy and dramatic increases in the Waste Management Charge reduced the scope for further road & bridge maintenance increases.

Criticism of what did or did not happen in the past will not solve any of Council's current problems. If a council cannot afford to maintain an asset or fund an ongoing service, don't introduce it in the first place.

This protocol comes undone when it comes to essential infrastructure like roads and bridges. Consequently, there is no better argument for councils to focus on their core business and resist the temptation to get dragged into providing services and facilities they cannot afford.

Councils cannot squeal about cost shifting if they have been a willing participant in taking on services for which there is no guarantee of ongoing funding.