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Ratepayers will not face the “impost” of helping to fund a ‘free’ waste collection service for Highlands pensioners.
The proposal was voted down at the June 14 council meeting following significant public objection to the concept.
The kerbside collection service would have benefited about 3700 shire pensioners, but would have increased all ratepayers’ domestic waste charges by an extra four per cent annually.
The proposed service was open to public comment for 28 days, exhibited alongside council’s integrated planning and reporting documents - which include council’s fees and charges, budget and infrastructure/capital works delivery programs for the next four years.
Although a total of 63 submissions were received in response to these documents, the overwhelming majority addressed the pensioner waste collection proposal.
Of the 45 submissions related to the program, 25 objected to it. Several objections said the increase waste charge was not acceptable given Wingecarribee residents had already been subjected to an IPART-approved 45.3 per cent rate rise over four years that began from 2016. Residents also commonly said any additional waste service should not be limited to pensioners.
Cr Duncan Gair said he would listen to the community’s feedback and spoke against adopting the service, citing the “impost” it would have on all ratepayers.
“We are putting our rates up 9.25%, there’s somewhere we have to rein in some costs,” he said. “There were 19 submissions for it, and 25 against. Those people took the time to do it, so I’m going to listen to the community. That’s what we went out to them for, to get their feelings.”
Cr Larry Whipper, who initially proposed the pensioner-only service at the February 8 council meeting, argued that it should be adopted as a demonstration of council’s “social conscience”.
“This is our opportunity to show we indeed have a social conscience and acknowledge there are people out there struggling and doing it incredibly tough,” he said.
As debate went around the table it appeared Cr Whipper’s push to adopt the program was unsupported by most councillors, and when it came time to vote all councillors opted not to implement it.
As part of the vote, councillors adopted the suite of documents also exhibited, with amendments based on public feedback.
Council offers a user-pays waste collection system which can be booked twice yearly at a cost of $77 per service, with rebates available to pensioners.
With the proposal now dumped, residents will face only a 2.5 per cent domestic waste increase for the 2017/2018 financial year.