Oakville residents pack Hawkesbury Council to complain about rates

It was rowdy inside the Hawkesbury Council chambers on Tuesday, August 8.
It was rowdy inside the Hawkesbury Council chambers on Tuesday, August 8.

A CROWD of furious Oakville residents crammed into Hawkesbury City Council’s chambers on Tuesday night as Council debated rates again.

As reported by The Gazette, Hawkesbury Council recently changed its ratings structure, placing a heavier reliance on land values when calculating rates.

This, coupled with the NSW Valuer-General giving Oakville land prices a hefty increase, has led to some Oakville residents seeing their rates bills more than double.

On August 8, Council debated whether to re-examine the rates structure for the 2018-19 financial year, and Oakville residents packed the chambers to listen.

A Notice of Motion put forward by the Liberal Party called for the base rate to be raised from 30 per cent to 50 per cent across all categories.

The motion was not passed, with an amendment instead accepted.

The amendment will, in short, see Council host a two-day workshop on the issue of rates in the future. The amendment also made a number of assertions, including that most people in the Hawkesbury received a rates decrease recently, and that Council’s ratings structure only played a small part in increasing rates for some people.

The amendment was supported 8-4, with the four Liberal councillors voting against it.

It was a hostile meeting, with the Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett at one stage calling a brief halt, after the crowd became too rowdy.

Cr Sarah Richards made a lengthy speech to a largely sympathetic crowd calling for a re-consideration of the rates structure.

There were a handful of people on hand, who clearly supported the rates restructure.

However, the bulk of the crowd was angered by their rates bills, and made their voices heard, often shouting down councillors whose views they did not like, while applauding others.

The Mayor, Cr Reynolds and Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler all said they sympathised with the people of Oakville.

However, they were unmoved in their opinion that the current rates model was the fairest possible, and much of the blame for the high rates bill lay at the feet of the NSW Valuer-General.

Liberal councillors said they agreed that the Valuer-General’s land valuations had played a role in Oakville’s rates being so high.

But, they said Council also shared the blame and said by changing the base rate to 50 per cent for the 2018-19 financial year, Council could reduce the impact of such high land valuations.

Mayor Lyons-Buckett said this would have very little impact.

A spokesperson from the Office of the NSW Valuer-General said the rise in valuations were as a result of nearby land sales in the area.

“The Hawkesbury local government area (LGA) generally saw a strong increase in 1 July 2016 land values since the last valuation for rating in 1 July 2014,” they said.

“The highest increases were for rural and rural lifestyle properties. The Oakville area saw some of the strongest increases in land values as a result of demand for land with potential for future residential development and well located lifestyle properties.”

The spokesperson said there would be a meeting with Hawkesbury City Council, which would be open to the public, on August 30 at the Windsor Function Centre from 6.30pm.