AN UPSET ratepayer has made an unprecedented effort to rally against "unfair" council rate hikes by opening a "ratepayers' embassy" in downtown Lismore.
Self-titled Robin Hood of Richmond Hill, Neville King, says Lismore City Council's plans to impose a permanent $500,000 rate rise to protect local wildlife is a slap in the face to struggling ratepayers.
Mr King hopes his new shopfront in the Star Court Arcade will help enlist a band of "merry men and women" to fight the plan.
The wall inside the almost empty shop are covered in photocopied articles and information, while windows outside are plastered with homemade posters scrawled with warnings.
Also inside is a set of flags which Mr King managed to have donated from local Nationals MPs Thomas George and Kevin Hogan's office - although they have not visited yet.
Lismore City Council's proposed Biodiversity Management Strategy would lift council's rate revenue by 1.9%, or $500,000 and pay for riverbank restoration, increasing habitat growth on public and private land, funding bushland reserves and ensuring new development is "ecologically sustainable".
Mr King said his gripe was not with conservation, but Lismore City Council's ignorance of ratepayers' ability to pay for it.
He argued Lismore already had the highest rates in the region and were becoming unaffordable for many.
He predicted the percentage of ratepayers defaulting on their rates bill would shoot upwards.
"I am offended that Council has attempted to steamroll this through," Mr King said.
"Council's information kit arrived by mail on December 20 with the council knowing that people were starting holidays.
"There's three people in my street who are still away in their caravans.
"People haven't really looked at the issue.
"Had they sent it out in February, when everybody's back at work, people could have looked at it in the right frame of mind."
Mr King said when he opened his council letter on January 10, he was pushed to act.
"There's almost 4000 pensioners in Lismore - do they deserve this?"
The embassy has drawn some local high-profile names to the cause such as local fundraising legend Marshall Fittler.
"I'm concerned about his from a health point of view; I think this is going to push a lot of people over the edge," Mr Fittler said.
The consultation period for the BMS and rate rise to pay for it remains open until February 24.
On top of the current increase, the council's current long-term financial plan proposes a $2-million annual rate hike starting in 2018-19 to fund road renewal.
"There's no sunset clause; these rate hikes are subject to every CPI increase," Mr King said.
"Ratepayers will pay forever."
While councils are struggling with a long-term deficit of state and Federal funding to maintain their ageing infrastructure, Mr King said ratepayers shouldn't have to carry the burden. He said he would love to see "ratepayers' embassies" in every regional town.
About Lismore's Biodiversity Management Strategy
Designed to protect and increase habitat for native wildlife in bush reserves and along waterways.
The proposed rate rises for a property valued at $500,000 are as follows:
Residential Rural: $82.50
The rate rise will start in July 2016 and rising each year with inflation.
COUNCIL RATES RANKED
According to most recent Local Government report cards 2012/13
*Rates are dependent on property values and the level of services provided
- Average residential: $1019
- Average farmland: $2040
- Average residential: $994
- Average farmland: $1661
- Average residential: $757
- Average farmland: $1216
- Average residential: $666
- Average farmland: $1252
- Average residential: $620
- Average farmland: $1053
HOW DO YOUR RATES COMPARE? WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR OWN EMBASSY?
LET US KNOW IN COMMENTS BELOW
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