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OPINION: Lake turning into one big black hole for ratepayers

I JUST polled 69 people in Hunter Street Mall. Yep, rabies is still more popular than Newcastle council and smallpox is vastly favoured over a rise in residential rates. No think time needed – 69-zip.
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But take it from this humble Lake Macquarie ratepayer, you guys don’t know how good you’ve got it.

So Newcastle council wants to raise residential rates by about 40per cent between now and 2021.

What that means is the average rate is going to climb from just over $1000 this year to $1459 on July1, 2020.

Do you know what we’ll be paying in Lake Macquarie on July 1 2020? $1672. In Maitland, the Average Flo will be shelling out $1637.

They’re not proposed rates or possible rates, they’re already approved rates.

Lake ratepayers are already paying residential rates that are, on average, 15per cent higher than in Newcastle.

Even if Newcastle’s increases are approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal later this year, the average rates in Lake Macquarie will be 20per cent higher than Newcastle’s by the time 2015-16 rolls around. Twentyper cent!

OK, Lake council has a pretty big lake to look after, and more roads and more people. But it doesn’t have to maintain two of the biggest ocean pools in the world.

It doesn’t have dozens of cash-starved historic buildings and city halls that keep falling apart.

It doesn’t have an art gallery or museum that gets anywhere near matching those in Newcastle.

It’s not hard to kick stones at councils, especially in Newcastle where I get paid to do it.

We can argue until the cows come home about where the money is spent, who gets what, what gets sold and how much it costs to build a speed hump – that’s what we’re supposed to do.

We can also whinge all we like about one voting bloc having one more member than the other voting bloc.

But reality has bitten the place on the bum.

The council’s growing black hole has been debated for 10 years – albeit half as long as the future of the heavy rail line. But something has to give before the black hole swallows the joint.

The council has made substantial inroads into turning the accounts around this year, and we should be demanding that more fat is trimmed. But not everything is City Hall’s fault.

We need to think about this one. It’s higher rates, fewer services or oblivion. Your call.

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