'Unfair' rates gap between apartments and houses questioned in Sutherland Shire Council survey

Pressure: Population is increasing rapidly with new apartment blocks, such as this Caringbah development. Picture: John Veage
Pressure: Population is increasing rapidly with new apartment blocks, such as this Caringbah development. Picture: John Veage

Are apartment owners paying their fair share in council rates?

The question is one of hundreds posed in the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken by Sutherland Shire Council, seeking residents’ views on how to meet major financial challenges.

Options canvassed in the online survey include general rate rises of up to 10 per cent for the next three years, shutting Caringbah Leisure Centre because it needs a costly upgrade, closing Engadine Leisure Centre in winter, making sports clubs pay for the use of fields and hiring out their clubhouses for wider community use.

Caringbah Leisure Centre.

Caringbah Leisure Centre.

Residents are also asked if they would like one of the three council golf courses, at Woolooware, Kareela and Barden Ridge, converted for other public recreation?

Other questions include whether paid parking should be introduced, fitness businesses charged for using public spaces and eight smaller libraries be replaced with with four larger facilities?

The council says, as the shire’s population rapidly increases, the cost of providing services is outstripping income and “big decisions” are needed.

Survey questions were guided by interviews already conducted with randomly-chosen community members at five citizen forums, held in October.

A view expressed at those meetings was there should be “equity” in rates paid by owners of apartments and houses.

In higher density areas of the shire, the owner of a unit with an average two residents pays minimum rates of about $588 compared with an average $1400 for a house with three occupants.

The survey questions whether people in apartments use council services more than those in houses and should the gap be reduced?

The council says apartment owners in similar areas of Sydney, including the northern beaches and Randwick, pay a higher proportion in rates.

The survey questions the value residents place on council services and facilities, including beaches, parks and open spaces, playgrounds, sporting fields and leisure and arts centres.

It asks if people are prepared to pay higher rates and / or service charges to continue enjoying their present way of life.

A rates calculator is included to work out how much more a home owner might be prepared to pay.

The council is aiming for at least 4000 people to complete the survey, which staff say takes about 20 minutes.

It can only be filled in online, but staff at the council administration building at Sutherland will assist residents who do not have computer skills.

​General Manager, Scott Phillips said the council faced big challenges in managing more than over $2 billion of infrastructure.

“How we continue to manage and maintain those assets and services in the face of an increasing population and rising energy costs is a question we need our community’s help in answering,” he said

Mr Phillips said, by 2026, Sutherland Shire’s population would grow by 20,000, as required by state government targets.

“Increasing population means more pressure on services and the need for more investment,” he said. 

“We need to know what is important to our residents and no decisions will be made until we have our community’s input.”

Fill out the survey at:     http://bit.ly/2ABaz3l