Increase rates or never go beyond the basics

In local government circles we often hear criticism that we are not sticking to our core responsibilities of roads, rates and rubbish and instead drift into areas that should be left to others. The connotation is that we are overcharging by providing services we shouldn’t. I would like to explore the concept further and seek guidance from our communities.

Perhaps the most obvious area of focus for our rural councils is economic development and tourism. Kimba District Council has put enormous energy and resources into these drivers and is proud of what we have been able to achieve. We believe a strong healthy economy is beneficial across our entire community and should be measured in ways far deeper than just dollars and cents. It could easily be argued these are not a council responsibility, but if we don’t pursue these opportunities, who will?

I continually mention governmental focus on centralisation strategies and the damage they have bestowed on rural populations. Despite acknowledgment of the issue we are still waiting to see any sign of a realistic attempt to reverse the trend. I feel we are largely a forgotten people. The city centric mantras drummed out by governments of all persuasions rarely even mention rural centres, never mind having supporting strategies or programs implemented to support and grow our rural communities. They are however happy to accept the benefits of our food production, export wealth, tourism strategies and other economic benefits we generate for the benefit of our entire state.  Our small rural councils are often left to pick up the pieces and attempt to fill the substantial gaps left for our citizens.

Our council is inundated with requests and ideas for new facilities, parks or infrastructure. Truthfully, we struggle to maintain and upkeep what we have. With limited funding, only careful planning and management allow us to achieve as much as we do. As with any budgeting exercise, it all comes down to one question. If you want something shiny and new, what services or facilities are you prepared to give up to get it? So if you are thinking of making a request to council for a new facility, take the time to consider the ongoing costs and implications not only to council but also the community.

So, should we cap all rate rises to base CPI and never look beyond basic services, or do you support the view of achieving as much as we can with what we have?

Dean Johnson

Kimba District Council mayor