Mayor Ryan Palmer flags rate relief for residents in Williamtown and surrounds PFAS contamination area

RELIEF PLAN: Those in the primary management zone would receive the biggest rate relief under the Port Stephens Council proposal.
RELIEF PLAN: Those in the primary management zone would receive the biggest rate relief under the Port Stephens Council proposal.

Update: 4.30pm

Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer has revealed plans to bypass the state government in his bid to deliver rate relief for residents within the PFAS contamination management area.

With little scope to deliver rate relief under the Local Government Act the council will ask residents elsewhere in Port Stephens to offset the reductions of up to 50 per cent for those resident in the red zone.

Cr Palmer said it would cost rate payers outside the red zone just $2.50 on average for the whole year, if the plan is adopted.

“We’ve explored a number of options and this is best fit,” Cr Palmer said.

“For such a small increase on our annual rates, it is worthwhile, we are a compassionate community and I hope this can go some way to easing some of their pain.” 

If the plan is supported it will need to go on public exhibition for 28 days before it can formally be adopted.

West Ward councillor Giacomo Arnott made a pledge in the last days of the September election to find relief for Red Zone residents and he was pleased, at last, some relief was within reach.

“Ever since I was elected I’ve been talking to council and exploring the option to try and make this happen,” he said.

“This is where we’ve landed, going through the options, and I’m really happy after a tough week for residents.

“A lot of people have looked on in disgust with the federal government this week, and while this wasn’t council’s doing we’ve been able to uphold our social responsibility in doing this.”

Earlier:

Residents in the PFAS contamination management area surrounding the Williamtown RAAF base could have their land rates reduced under a Port Stephens Council proposal.

Under the proposal those living in the primary management zone would see a 50 per cent reduction in their rates while those in the secondary management zone would benefit from a 25 per cent reduction.

People in the broader management zone would get a 10 per cent reduction.

Councillors will weigh up the plan at the next council meeting on May 22, the mayor Ryan Palmer has revealed.

It’s not the first time councillors have sought to give residents rate relief.

Former councillor Peter Kafer asked the council to investigate the very same idea in July 2016 but the Valuer General’s assessment of the impacts on property prices proved problematic.

A revised assessment of land values then, for 376 properties out of the 438 in the investigation area, found that land values had only eased $32,300 on average despite reports that mortgage holders had handed back the keys to “worthless” property.

With rates tied to land values the Local Government Act of 1993 provided limited scope at that time to provide rate relief. Even the latest assessment on property values, released this week, reported land values in the expanded red zone had eased 15 per cent – conservative in the books of some landholders.

The deputy mayor Chris Doohan, for one, is hopeful for a better result this time.

“What we’ve got this time is a lot more data and a lot more information to approach the state government with,” he said.

“Unfortunately it might be a case of crossing our fingers and hoping the state government can allow this to happen.

“Only this week have these residents had a couple of big kicks in the gut so if we can support it and the state government can get behind it, it would be a welcome move.”

Cr Doohan referred to this week’s federal budget that – with an allocation of $73 million –  failed to come with a commitment to buy back property

This was dovetailed with release of a report by the government's expert health panel, which found there was no evidence the chemicals had a "large impact" on human health. 

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