Council thanks community post Corowa Aquatic engagement sessions

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Federation Council has expressed its sincere gratitude to the community members that engaged with Council at the four different community meetings held in Morundah, Urana, Corowa and Mulwala last week.

The community meeting sessions provided residents with the opportunity to engage with Council and better understand the eagerly anticipated new Corowa Aquatic Centre, expected to open in April 2021. The meetings also allowed Council to consult and engage, on how a Special Rate Variation works and why Council is pursuing this as an option to help fund the operational costs and ongoing asset life cost of the Corowa Aquatic Centre.

At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, 2 February Federation Council voted unanimously to submit the Corowa Aquatic Centre Special Rate Variation Application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for determination.

Based on the extensive feedback, Council Officers recommended that the 2021/22 rate peg of 2% be applied based on the value of land only, and the Special Variation of 6% ($1.26 per week/$65.52 per year) if approved, be applied evenly to each property in the Federation Council area. This results in an increase to average residential rates of $1.26 per week to go towards the operation costs of the new aquatic facility. If the variation is approved by IPART, average residential rates in Federation will remain in the lowest 20% in the state.

Federation Council General Manager Adrian Butler said he was so pleased to hear the many reports from community members that appreciated the information sessions and had gained a better understanding of what the proposed increase would be used for, and how it would be applied.

“Over the last 12 months, due to COVID, Council has been unable to host face to face community meetings such as this and it is certainly a part of the engagement process that I know Council and the community have really missed,” he said.

“Our recent sessions proved so beneficial to all stakeholders, which has allowed the community to gain a greater understanding of where we are at in respect to the new Aquatic Centre and special rate variation journey. There was some concern that the rate variation would apply as a percentage on land value, but Council took into consideration the extensive feedback from the community when surveyed in December 2020 through to January 2021 and made the decision to apply an even fixed increase of $1.26 per week to every residential household in the Federation Local Government area. This results in a $65.52 annual increase per year, which would go directly to the operating costs of the new Corowa Aquatic Centre if approved by IPART.”

Federation Council Mayor, Cr Patrick Bourke said Councillors and Council staff found the sessions invaluable and appreciated the opportunity to meet face to face with residents once again.

“Community engagement has always been a priority of this Council and it was fantastic to be back out across our Council area having conversations with the community about decisions that we are making to improve the livability of our Council area,” Mayor Bourke said.

“The community told us what they wanted to see as part of this new facility, and now we’re about to deliver on their aspirations by working towards delivering a contemporary regional standard aquatic centre that caters to a variety of needs, and will be enjoyed for many years to come. Many of the attendees, particularly those outside of the direct Corowa area, made their views clear about the reality that no one likes to pay extra rates, and particularly for some who do not see themselves as future users of the facility. However, on the whole, Council considers the wider community can see the value in the quality of infrastructure projects we are delivering across the Federation region and when equated back to the actual increase, if approved, of $1.26 per week in this instance, Council considers that this is acceptable for the many benefits this facility will bring.”

Mayor Bourke said following the merger in 2016 of the former Corowa and Urana Shires, there had been substantial work undertaken to join both entities together, and deliver on the $10 million dollars of infrastructure projects, funded by the NSW State Government.

“There was some debate, which normally comes, around about why should I have to pay for a facility that isn’t in my town, or one I am going to have travel to,” Mayor Bourke said.

“But the reality is we are one community here in Federation Council, and this is something we have worked so hard to highlight since the forced merger. The infrastructure developments that we are seeing created, and those already delivered throughout the wider region will have a benefit to the entire Federation community and ensure that we are a prospering and attractive region from a livability perspective, and as a destination to support our tourism offering. This aquatic centre will be an asset not just for the community today, but one that will meet our communities’ needs for the next 50 years or more. I look forward to the day where we can open the doors and see the enjoyment on our residents faces, who are really looking forward to utilizing the new community facility from learn to swim, to aqua aerobics, and general swimming fun in between, all year round.”

Council considered it critical as part of its ongoing engagement efforts, that these last sessions were held whilst people still had a chance to make submissions to IPART on this application. Residents can make a formal submission on the application directly to IPART. Submissions close Sunday, 7 March 2021. Further information can be found on Council’s website here or via the IPART website.

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