The heat is on: Huon Valley Council hammers ratepayers with 6% increase

The Huon Valley
The Hammered Huon Valley

Tasmania’s Huon Valley Council (HVC) increased its rates by almost 6% in 2019, a huge increase over the CPI of 1.3%.

The HVC operates in the south of Tasmania where the annual median household income was just $38,701 in 2016 (ABS figures), compared to $47,692 nationally.

Why are cash-poor Huon ratepayers being slugged?

According to a Mercury newspaper report (paywalled), the increase was to pay for an electric vehicle and solar panels.

The amount raised however, about $700,000, appears to be far more than the cost of an electric vehicle and solar panels.

Regardless, the rate increase will increase greenhouse gas production over any benefit gained from an electric vehicle and solar panels.

Given wage stagnation, additional cost-of-living increases will force people to work more shifts or longer hours.

Everything we do, other than sitting around at home, generates greenhouse gases. Even sitting around at home produces CO2 if you have a heater on, or eat meat.

There’s no escaping it. A Huon farmer might breed an extra beast or two to cover rising costs, and the livestock will add to already skyrocketing global methane levels.

I also question how the council’s new solar panels will be helpful with regard to greenhouse gases, in an area that uses clean hydro electricity.

There are other things the council could spend its money on.

Cash must be set aside to mitigate the inevitable effects of climate change.

Money is needed to develop plans and resources to fight worsening summer bushfires, and to help people who are affected.

Fires are likely to become the Huon’s No.1 problem with climate change.

Given the surge in Antarctic ice melt since 2014, and more recently Greenland, soon enough, low-lying roads and council infrastructure along the river and coast will need raising or relocation as sea levels rise.

This is an inevitable future cost for which setting up a “future fund” may be prudent.

Separately, the Huonville tip (Southbridge Transfer Station) is, surprisingly, located on the bank of the Huon River. It should be relocated. There is an eternal pile of chemical containers and other rubbish just metres from the riverbank. Is the soil under this pile contaminated? Is it getting into the river? Regardless, this is prime real estate that should not be a tip/waste transfer station.

The HVC has an unfortunate history.

The council lost a small fortune through poor investments at the time of the Global Financial Crisis.

More recently, the council became so dysfunctional it had to be sacked. A commissioner was installed, at great cost, to get the show back on the road.

Having already wasted enough of ratepayers’ money, the least the council could do is make rate-rise decisions that reflect reality.

In a struggling economy, in a low-income municipality, in a world suffering a climate emergency, that means holding rate increases at or below CPI.

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