Special tourism and pool rates delayed

A proposal to raise money through a special rate variation (SRV) to fund swimming pools in the shire and tourism promotion and marketing has been put on hold until financial year 2020/21.

Councilllors voted to delay the proposal at the meeting on Wednesday, October 10 after hearing that there was too little time to identify the how the rate could be applied and meet the requirements for public consultation without hitting the summer holiday period.

It is believed the result is deeply disappointing to tourism bodies in the shire who have been advocating for increased funding for more than 18 months and who had offered to help council with some of the leg work associated with identifying the types of businesses that should be paying the SRV.

Councillor Sharon Tapscott said the delay was unlikely to affect the ongoing operation of swimming pools. 

Council confirmed: “We will operate pools and yes there will be a continued delay in renewals and upgrades particularly at the Bega Memorial Pool however we know Bega Pool will soon be needing work and we’ll continue with asset renewal planning.”

Any proposal for an SRV must go to the Independent pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for approval and part of the process has to include community consultation.

However in order to consult council would need to be clear about which properties and ratepayers would be affected by both SRVs and it is the tourism SRV that is the more complex.

The idea had been to try and capture those mixed use premises that benefited from tourism but were not paying the existing tourism SRVs.

Council’s general manager Leanne Barnes said the organisation had been in consultation with other councils who tried to implement a tourism SRV and capture all ratepayers who benefit from tourism but had not found a successful implementation.

Councillor Tony Allen said that farmers having a tough time were diversifying into tourism, running a B&B which was all part of tourism.

“We have to find a solution but this is getting too hard,” Cr Allen said.

There was discussion about whether a levy rather than an SRV would be easier by the general manager Leanne Barnes said that in order to bring in a levy more than 50 per cent of those impacted would need to agree.

“Noosa is a model we have been looking at. A special levy rather than a rate increase may well be a more succinct way of doing this,” Ms Barnes said.

Despite the staff recommendation in the business paper for staff to continue modelling a special rate variation application based on raising $1.9 million to fund the shire’s swimming pools and $500,000 for an additional tourism marketing program, councillors voted unanimously to delay until 2020/21.