Hike rates

The Central Coast Council has been allowed to hike rates by 15% for a decade to pay off emergency debts

A NSW council has been criticized for asking residents to take shorter showers and watch how much they flush.

Angry residents have slammed a beleaguered NSW council for asking residents to take shorter showers while demanding they pay higher rates for a decade.

Central Coast ratepayers will face 10 years of higher costs after a court approved a controversial plan for the local council to pay off $150 million in debt.

The council succeeded in imposing a 15% rate increase on residents for the next 10 years.

The decision, described as “unacceptable” by some locals, was approved by the NSW Independent Rates and Regulatory Tribunal on Tuesday.

“(The extension) will allow the council to ensure its continued financial viability and maintain its services to the community,” IPART said.

The council could only use the extra taxpayer money to “repay $150 million in emergency loans and ensure the council’s continued financial viability,” the court said.

It comes after the council plunged into a deep financial crisis with a debt of $565 million, which led the state government to take various emergency measures, including the sacking of all councilors and the appointment of an administrator.

A local that made a submission to IPART said the council had “lost sight of its role and responsibilities” and “mismanaged” its assets.

Debra Wales wrote in her memoir that the council had the wrong priorities and pointed to social media posts asking residents to stop flushing so often and take shorter showers.

“The mismanagement continues as we constantly endure social media and council publicity which clearly ignores the angry mood of the community during this financial crisis,” she wrote.

“Inexperienced council staff tell us how to ‘swim in our pool to save water’, how to ‘flush the toilet’ and how to ‘take a shower’ while our roads are crumbling, our parks are overrun by the vegetation and that our city centers are in difficulty.”

The council’s Facebook posts were posted several months ago as part of a campaign to reduce water waste.

IPART previously agreed to let the council raise fares by 15% for three years.

Tuesday’s decision allowed the council to extend the higher rates for another seven years, meaning they will remain until 2031.

Council administrator Rik Hart said the decision would allow him to pursue a 10-year financial plan that would pay off the council’s emergency debts.

“We have achieved one of the most significant financial turnarounds of any organization in less than 12 months,” he said in a statement.

“For the community – there is no increase to your rates. This is a continuation of the current rates you pay with the exception of rate escalation as determined by IPART each year.

MPs from both government and opposition states wrote briefs opposing the rate hike.

IPART has also enabled several other NSW councils to raise their rates.

Cumberland City Council was authorized to increase its minimum rate to $715 the following fiscal year, with two further increases set for the following two years.

Hunters Hill, Kyogle and Snowy Valleys councils have been given permission to increase their rates permanently.

Residents of Hunters Hill will see a cumulative increase of 26.02% over two years, while those of Kyogle will see an increase of 2.5%.

Residents of Snowy Valleys will see a cumulative increase of 35.95% over two years.