Thursday, April 25, 2024

Sydney councils launch national media campaign to halt infrastructure bill

Twenty-three metropolitan councils have today launched a campaign in the national media to demand the NSW Government abandon its plan to divert local government funds into State revenue.

The councils claim the NSW Government is attempting to take up to half of local government developer contributions through the introduction of a new Infrastructure Contributions Bill.

The councils have published an open letter in the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph, to raise public awareness of the detrimental impact they say the levy change will have on their communities.

The councils argue that developer levies should be spent where they are raised to ensure new development is accompanied by appropriate investment in the surrounding area.

“The potential detrimental impact of these legislative changes would be felt strongly in Liverpool, one of NSW’s fastest growth areas, for decades to come,” says Liverpool Mayor, Wendy Waller.

“Leaving councils with no option but to increase their rates to cover the revenue shortfall is not the answer. Our estimates suggest a significant annual rise would be needed to cover the shortfall if this Bill progresses – an increase our ratepayers would simply not be able to afford.

“Our communities expect us to plan and provide them with open space, parks, playgrounds, roads, footpaths, and community buildings to enhance their quality of life. Under these legislative changes, our capacity to deliver these assets would be non-existent, leaving our growing communities without the infrastructure they need.

“The NSW Government is ignoring our collective voice and, in my opinion, treating us with disdain by providing a piece of legislation that has left us with an impossible ultimatum; stop delivering quality community infrastructure or significantly hike rates to cover the shortfall.”

The letter published today reads:

Dear Premier,

As you know, the NSW Government imposes housing targets onto local Councils to accommodate Sydney’s population growth.

And in turn, our communities rely on our Councils to deliver the essential facilities and infrastructure needed to support this growth, and make people’s lives and local environments better.

This infrastructure includes everything from roads and footpaths, to sports fields, parks and netball courts, to playgrounds, pools and libraries.

We can only deliver these facilities because we are able to collect contributions from property developers to help fund them.

However, the changes now being planned by the NSW Government will divert a large proportion of these developer contributions away from Councils and into a Treasury-controlled fund, with no clear accountability or transparency of how it will be spent.

And the Government is proposing Councils raise rates to make up the revenue we are losing.

This breaks the nexus between where contributions are made and where they are spent. This threatens the ability of every Council to deliver much-needed new community facilities, and transfers that burden onto our ratepayers.

Premier, you are forcing us to choose between cancelling projects and raising rates. And this is at a time of pandemic-induced financial hardship for many people in the state.

On behalf of our communities, we urge that you withdraw the changes currently before Parliament.

Modelling by the Centre for International Economics (CIE) estimates that the Infrastructure Contributions Bill (2021) would give the NSW Government an additional $793million per year in revenue (averaged over 20 years).

Local Councils will only be able to levy local development for “essential infrastructure” and will be left with shortfalls in funding for playgrounds, open space, sports and community facilities unless they raise rates. This transfers the cost of new Community infrastructure to support new development from the developers to ratepayers.

The 23 signatories are directing communities to visit to find out more, and to also voice their concern with local members of Parliament.

The signatories are: Bayside, Blacktown City, Blue Mountains, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury Bankstown, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Hawkesbury, Hunter’s Hill, Inner West, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Penrith, Randwick, Ryde, Strathfield, Sutherland Shire, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra.

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