Tony Briffa Votes Against Council Rate Increase

As an Independent Councillor focused on representing the community and supporting them during this very challenging pandemic, I am disappointed the 2020-21 council budget provides a rate increase that, while not applied immediately, will be applied at a later date.

I support the Capital Works Program 2020-21, but cannot support the rate rise.  I do not support an apparent “rate freeze” in 2020 only to potentially hit residents, community groups and businesses with a double rate increase in 2021.  At a time of a global pandemic and recession, of high unemployment and instability, of many businesses closing their doors and struggling to keep afloat, the council should be offering a genuine rate freeze – and perhaps a rate discount – in addition to other supports such as the Financial Hardship Policy.

The Hobsons Bay City Council is in a good financial position.  The proposed annual budget includes a surplus of $23.762 million for the year.  We can afford to provide a genuine rate freeze.

I also note that many of the fees and charges have also increased, and often by more than 2%.  For example, registration for a sterilised cat is going up by 4.76%, and registration for a sterilised dog is going up by 2.65%.  Many of the charges to local business for street furniture is going up by around 3%.  Parking ticket machines in the restaurant precinct in Williamstown are on hold for the rest of 2020, but they are going up by 5.41% when they are turned back on in 2021.

Here are some of the details extracted from the budget:

1. HBCC

This means the actual rate increase (Capital Improved Value) for residential properties is actually increasing by 2.95% but not applied this year.  It can, however, be applied in 2021 meaning ratepayers can be subjected to a double rate increase in 2021.  In my opinion, a rate freeze means the Capital Improved Value should not be increased so it cannot be applied in future years.  The council should completely forego any rate increase for 2020-21.

Note that the follow table from the budget shows an actual rate increase in 2020-21 is $2,887,000 and the propose rebate will cost $2,226,000.  This means the council still gains $661,000 in addition to the increase in fees and charges.

2. HBCC

3. HBCC

The following table from the budget clearly shows the Council administration is planning a rate increase every year of 2%, and that the rebate being applied for 2020-21 is a one off, meaning that the 2% from 2020-21 will still count in future budgets.  The council budget for 2021-22 will therefore effectively have a double rate increase.

4. HBCC

The following table from the budget shows the council is expecting significant surpluses over the next 4 years, largely from rates increasing from $112 million in 2020/21 to $124 million in 2023/24 (a 10.7% increase over 4 years!).

5. HBCC

I urge every ratepayer (resident or business owner) experiencing financial hardship to access the new council Financial Hardship Policy.  It now includes provisions for rate deferrals and waivers, and I hope it will be easy to access.  Please contact the council or me directly if you want more information about that.

I also respectfully acknowledge Cr Michael Grech who also voted against the rate rise, and Cr Angela Altair who abstained from the vote.

Hobsons Bay in-home support services

At the Hobsons Bay City Council Meeting scheduled for 7pm, Tuesday 19 February 2019, the council will consider an item closed to the public in relation to Community Care services in Hobsons Bay, and in particular, in-home support services.  I have received many calls and emails about this in recent weeks, so in the interests of openness and transparency I thought I would write about this on my website to clarify my position.

The Local Government Act permits matters to be considered in confidence and without the public present if they meet certain criteria, and as this matter involves a tender, the council has grounds to consider this matter in camera.  I believe the decision regarding whether council outsources in-home care should be done in public.

Aged Care is at a cross-roads in Australia with many things happening that can change the landscape considerably in the sector over the next 12 -18 months.  There is a federal election in a few months, and the Royal Commission into Aged Care is currently underway and due to provide a report with extensive recommendations next year.  The Royal Commission’s terms of reference includes consideration about support needed to assist people to remain living at home as they age – which is directly relevant to the matter being considered by the council.

My position is that home care should remain a service provided directly by the council to the community, so I support the continuation of in-home support services to the 1,649 Hobsons Bay residents that receive the 70,000 hours of support services provided by the council each year.  It is one of the services our community values most, and ensures our most vulnerable residents receive quality services in their home and are afforded high levels of care, dignity and respect.  I’m proud of the services the council delivers to people needing assistance to remain in their homes, and want to see them continue in its current form.

 

Note:  As the matter on the agenda is deemed confidential, I will not disclose anything contained in the report or recommendation as required by the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic.).

Feedback Wanted – Altona Toxic Soil Facility

Innova proposal
 
The council has received an application from an interstate developer that would like to construct a soil decontamination facility in Altona at the rear of the Dow Chemical site on Kororoit Creek Road.

The application is now being advertised and residents are invited to lodge submissions regarding this application within the next two weeks. The documentation can be accessed via the following link:
https://greenlight.e-vis.com.au/hbcc/public/main.aspx?frm=uc_applicationDisplay.ascx&appTypeId=1&mId=10&AppId=62909

Hobsons Bay City Council Combats Graffiti

graffiti

Hobsons Bay Council has a graffiti management policy that seeks to:

  • remove graffiti from council-owned assets as soon as possible,
  • assist local businesses and residents from removing graffiti from their property (through the provision of graffiti removal kits, training and advice),
  • refer graffiti on assets owned by other government authorities (such as power poles, telephone booths, mail boxes, bus shelters and railway stations) to the relevant departments as soon as possible, and
  • work with local street art programs to support legal street art such as murals.

Please contact the council to apply for a graffiti removal kit at the Hobsons Bay Civic Centre, 115 Civic Parade, Altona or by telephoning the Council on 9932 1000.

 

EPA Approves Toxic Soil Facility in Altona!

DOW
This morning the EPA gave their approval for a toxic soil facility in Altona despite a petition of 3,500 signatures from local residents opposed to the facility, and the absence of a Victorian government framework about the siting and operation of permanent soil treatment facilities.

The Hobsons Bay City Council has already written to the state government seeking that they establish a policy that identifies appropriate sites and environmental performance for these facilities, and processes to ensure ongoing independent audits and reporting mechanisms to the regulators and the community. Until that is done, the EPA should have refused to grant works approval.

The EPA is supposed to be the defenders of our environment. Today they’ve shown they’re the defenders of industry over the environment and the wishes of the community. In their haste to support this application the EPA has not even resolved outstanding issues such as appropriate buffer distances, end use and disposal of treated soil, ongoing independent environmental monitoring and audits with public disclosure of results, dust and odour issues, and the health and wellbeing of workers and residents in the area.

Log Fumigation in Altona

log fumigation

Viking Transport still trying to conduct log fumigation in Altona

Last year Viking Transport started a log storage and handling facility without any council permits.  Once council notified them that they needed a permit they applied for one, and it was later revealed that they were fumigating logs with methyl bromide on site – only 200 metres from homes.

Viking Transport export logs to China which requires that logs be fumigated with methyl bromide before export, which is known to have many adverse environmental and health impacts.  This chemical is banned in the European Union, but in Australia it is still permitted for use for products being exported (a cynic might say it’s a case of the government putting the economy and jobs before the environment and health).

New Zealand also exports logs to China, but in their case they fumigate the logs offshore.  The same happens for logs exported to Chine from Tasmania.  While this is not the best environmental solution because it still utilises this ozone depleting gas, it is safer for residents and I therefore believe we should insist on the same process.

 

I was pleased to lead a campaign against onsite log fumigation and the use of methyl bromide, and following a huge community outcry Viking Transport withdrew log fumigation from their planning permit application.  The permit was then issued by the council with a number of conditions including:

  • No log fumigation on site;
  • Hours of operation limited to 7am to 6pm during the week and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays; and
  • Measures to limit the noise, visual amenity and air quality (dust) impacts on neighbouring residents.

 

Viking Transport are still not happy, so they have now applied to VCAT to have the conditions removed – including the condition prohibiting onsite log fumigation.

I have now lodged an official objection to Viking Transport’s application with VCAT.

I believe Viking Transport should accept the conditions of the permit approved by the council and immediately withdraw their appeal from VCAT.  The council’s permit allow Viking to continue their log storage and freight operations but expressly without any log fumigation on site and by minimising other impacts on their neighbours.  Viking Transport must remember they are located only 200 metres from homes, so they have a huge impact on local residents.

Industries like Viking Transport, Mobil, Dow Chemical and Innova must be put on notice.  Industry cannot be left to do what they like in Altona.

I hope my joining as an objector at the VCAT hearing will strengthen the campaign against Viking and council’s defence of its permit conditions.  I took a hard stand against log fumigation when this issue came to the council and am extremely disappointed Viking are continuing to push log fumigation on the local community.

Please join the campaign against Viking Transport’s push for log fumigation in Altona by sending me an email and joining us at VCAT when the hearings are held in May – either as an objector (which will allow you to be heard at the hearing) or as a supporter in the gallery.

 

Kind regards,

 

Tony

 

_________________________

Cr Tony Briffa JP

Deputy Mayor, City of Hobsons Bay

Councillor for Altona & Seaholme

 

www.briffa.org