State Government inaction on methane gas funding assistance leads to increased rates

MEDIA RELEASE: 21 May 2010

City of Casey Mayor Cr Lorraine Wreford said despite a massive financial challenge the Council’s $220 million draft budget is a responsible and balanced response to the needs of the Casey community, providing a solid framework for citywide expenditure in the 2010-11 financial year.

‘We are pleased to still be able to present a budget with continued strong investment in community infrastructure and service provision.

‘Of the $220 million total budget, $175 million is proposed to be spent on delivering more than 150 different Council services to the community and $45 million is allocated to the Capital Works Program to continue providing first class community facilities for Victoria’s largest municipality’, said Cr Wreford.

The Mayor said that the Council had to make some difficult decisions in respect to some significant expenses that were out of its direct control, including:

  • having to collect the EPA’s increased landfill levy, imposed on local governments by the State Government, and
  • carrying the full short-term costs associated with the remediation and monitoring of the Stevensons Road closed landfill.

City of Casey Deputy Mayor Cr Shar Balmes said ‘Because the State Government has still not responded to its duty of care to our ratepayers in the wake of the methane leak debacle, Council has needed to factor in $41.9 million (including Casey and Frankston’s share) for short-term costs that we believe should be borne by the Government for the diabolical liability its agencies and entities have left us.

‘It’s not fair that the Cities of Casey and Frankston are now faced with costs of almost $100 million over the next 20 years to remediate the site; most of it, the result of losing the buffer zone due to a VCAT decision and the calling of the emergency in September 2008, without a risk assessment being undertaken by the EPA’, said Cr Balmes.

As a result of Council having to bear $32 million of the short term costs of $41.9 million, the proposed rate rise in 2010-11 increases to 11.69%.

Approximately 5.5% of this absorbs the financial impacts of the Stevensons Road closed landfill situation, including development of a fighting fund to assist Council in its efforts to secure an appropriate level of funds from the State Government.

‘Council could have delivered a general rate rise similar to that of 2009-10, which was one of the lowest of Melbourne’s 31 metropolitan councils on a per capita basis, but the harsh reality is that Casey ratepayers are currently burdened with the methane leak fall out, which, even the Victorian Ombudsman has stated was the direct result of decisions and actions by a number of parties’, said Cr Balmes.

‘It’s simply not fair that Casey ratepayers should foot the entire bill for the landfill situation. We will fight for what’s right on behalf of our residents’, she added.

‘Council has been seeking funding assistance from the State Government to meet the massive and extraordinary costs caused by the methane gas leak. The State Government has not agreed to Council’s request for assistance to date, despite many approaches, but I hope that it will do so soon.

‘If the State Government makes the requested contribution, Council will ensure that the budget is subsequently amended so that the rate payments are correspondingly reduced’, Cr Balmes added.

Cr Wreford said the Council was addressing the financial challenges associated with the landfill responsibly.

‘Councillors were elected knowing that the landfill situation was our biggest challenge and I think we are doing a good job’, said Cr Wreford.

‘Council has accepted its responsibilities and has gone above and beyond to address the entire situation.

‘Not only have we put in place an $11 million deep wall around the perimeter of the landfill, Council has also spent millions of dollars on installing the most comprehensive infrastructure and monitoring regime available, both on site and throughout the neighbouring estate.

‘This new budget has been responsibly prepared, taking account of the short-term and future financial impacts of the landfill situation. We have no alternative other than to address these impacts now. To do otherwise, would be irresponsible’, added Cr Wreford.

This year, the City of Casey, as with all local governments, must also act as a collection agency for the State Government and collect the EPA’s increased landfill levy.

This, coupled with an increase in the green waste contract, site management costs of the Stevensons Road closed landfill, and allowing approximately $6 for indexation, means that the garbage charge will increase from $186 to $230.

The average rates, including the waste services charge, is approximately $1,390 per property.

The Mayor said that despite the financial challenges the City faced, Council’s operating budget had only increased by 2.4% to deliver the same services. ‘This means that we will make more effective use of our resources without compromising on the high standard of our service delivery’, said Cr Wreford.

‘The City of Casey is already an extremely efficient council. Last year, Casey had the lowest rates out of all outer metropolitan councils and one of the lowest rates in Victoria.

‘Council’s budget has also recognised the good work of the hundreds of community groups and organisations in Casey who provide valuable services and programs to residents.

‘Council has allocated $1.9m for Council Grants and Contributions, $4.24 million for Casey’s five libraries and, each Councillor has been funded $5,000 to be directed towards ward projects and community groups.’

The draft 2010-11 budget is on public exhibition until Friday, 18 June 2010. During this period, copies of the draft budget will be available for inspection at the City of Casey’s Narre Warren, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne Customer Service Centres as well as on the City of Casey website.

Written submissions under Section 223 of the Local Government Act 1989 on any proposal contained in the draft budget must be made to Council by close of business on Friday, 18 June 2010. Submissions should be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, City of Casey, PO Box 1000, Narre Warren, 3805.

The Council will consider any written submissions and adopt the budget at a Special Council meeting to be held at the Civic Centre, Magid Drive, Narre Warren on Tuesday, 22 June 2010.

Some Highlights of the 2010-11 Capital Works Program - Valued at $45 million

Sport and Leisure

  • $3 million to commence works at the Grices Road Reserve in Berwick which will eventually comprise three soccer fields, cricket overlay oval, training lights, roads and car park, cricket nets, playground, water storage and double pavilion
  • $830,000 to extend the Berwick Springs Park pavilion to district level standard including two additional changing rooms
  • $685,000 to construct a new soccer pavilion at Chalcot Lodge Reserve in Endeavour Hills
  • $510,000 for Stage 2 works at Reema Reserve in Endeavour Hills which will see the pavilion extended to provide additional toilets, change rooms and a referee’s room
  • $320,000 towards Hampton Park’s Cairns Road Recreation Reserve pavilion upgrade
  • $275,000 to implement sustainable water initiatives at sports fields throughout Casey such as planting drought tolerant grasses
  • $250,000 for the Hampton Park Bowling Club extension which includes extra toilet facilities
  • $250,000 to construct a new pavilion at Banjo Paterson Park in Lynbrook which will comprise two change rooms, toilets, a kitchenette and storage space
  • $220,000 to extend and upgrade the pavilion at Barry Simon Reserve in Endeavour Hills
  • $180,000 for an internal refurbishment and small extension of the Hallam Recreation Reserve pavilion
  • $170,000 to commence planning and design works for the Lyndhurst Marriott Waters Estate sports fields development which will include two district level football/cricket ovals and a pavilion
  • $110,000 for an internal refurbishment of the Edwin Flack Reserve, Berwick football and cricket pavilion

Casey ARC

A total of $882,500 will be spent on upgrades at Casey ARC which include:

  • Health Club extension - $300,000
  • Energy conservation initiatives including solar hot water pre-heating and new lighting control systems - $120,000
  • Minor capital works (including furniture and equipment replacement) - $112,500
  • Gym equipment replacement - $350,000

Casey Fields

  • $1.42 million to construct a rugby pavilion which includes two change rooms, toilets, a kitchen, storage and a multi-purpose function room
  • Council will complete the delivery of the Casey Fields Development Project which comprises an athletics complex, road network improvements, regional playground and landscaping works

Community Facilities

  • $2.4 million to construct a new Children’s Services Centre at Carlisle Park, Cranbourne North which will include a new double room kindergarten, Maternal & Child Health offices, a multi-purpose function room and a community meeting room
  • $1.273 million will go towards building a new Children’s Services Centre at Hallam Primary School which will include a new single room kindergarten, Maternal & Child Health offices and a multi-purpose function room
  • $1.2 million will go towards minor capital works at a range of community facilities throughout Casey
  • $224,000 will be spent on new works and upgrades at kindergartens throughout Casey
  • $100,000 to commence the design of Cranbourne West Children’s Services Centre
  • $62,000 will be spent on Myuna Farm minor capital works which include farm improvements such as fences around animal enclosures, informational signage, and fit-out of the new café
  • $45,000 towards the Pearcedale Community Centre refurbishment

Roads and Road Safety

  • $3.5 million - Road rehabilitation program
  • $2 million - Road resealing program
  • $800,000 – Linking paths program
  • $680,000 - Local Traffic Management Program
  • $608,000 - Berwick Village Streetscape Works (Stage 3)
  • $650,000 – for the metropolitan trail network shared paths
  • $220,000 - Pedestrian crossing program
  • $150,000 - Greyspot traffic works

Arts

  • $550,000 for extension works at The Factory – Rehearsal Centre for the Arts which includes a loud band room and two store rooms
  • $23,000 for public art at the Hunt Club Estate Children’s Services Centre
  • $14,500 for public art at the Prospect Hill Retarding Basin (Oatlands Reserve) soccer facility

Parks, Gardens and Reserves

  • $455,000 for various playground upgrades and improvements
  • $410,000 for street tree plantings throughout the municipality
  • $200,000 will be spent on landscaping and development works on Cranbourne West powerlines parkland
  • $170,000 will be contributed towards the construction costs of the Australian Volunteer Master Gardener Precinct at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne
  • $152,500 on landscape and development works at Frog Hollow Reserve
  • $138,000 for landscape and development works at the Eumemmerring Creek Parklands
  • $102,500 to commence works on Stage 2 of the Casey Central Town Park play space
  • $24,000 for minor capital works at Wilson Botanic Park which include upgrading the sensory garden, path improvements and interpretive signage