IWeb_m142913T WASN’T just the rates that went up by more than inflation in South Gippsland Shire this year, fees and charges went up by as much as a whopping 560 per cent when the annual budget was approved recently. It was a fact that didn’t escape the notice of the Korumburra Business Association which held a general meeting last Wednesday, July 10 to discuss the 6.75 per cent increase in rates, and also the rise in fees and charges and other topical issues including the future of the Korumburra water supply, shire services in Korumburra, the KBA’s website and their plans for a Christmas Family Fun Day later this year. But it was the hike in rates and charges which attracted most comment.

KBA President David Amor said people in business in Korumburra were frankly staggered by the increase, not only on their commercial premises but also on their houses. “The business person gets hit in many ways, not just through the rates, and I just like to know where the $54 million they are going to spend goes,” Mr Amor said. “The other concern I have is that rates are set to go up by another 6.25 per cent the following year and then 5 per cent after that.” He also claimed that Leongatha got the lion’s share of the works and services. Local café operator, Heather Walker of Heather’s Café Craft Wool agreed, also raising the issue of the increase in permits and fees. “For example the cost of putting an A-frame sign on the street, a table and chairs or for selling goods has gone up by 21 per cent from $43 to $52 which mightn’t sound like much but I’m paying $156 now because I’ve got tables and chairs, a sign and I put some potatoes out for sale as well. “It all adds up.” Ms Walker said traders were given precious little time to comment on the proposed rise in fees, nor was it explained what the new fees would be.

Also of concern, she said, is that the fees aren’t specific to frontage size. “I’ve only got a small frontage so I can only put a limited amount out and I still get charged the same as those who can put out a bigger display.” She said business which wanted to put an umbrella outside their premises also had to comply with a costly shire process. The cost of the various shire inspections and business approvals have also gone up typically from 8 per cent to more than 20 per cent. But the cost of a building and planning infringement notice has gone up from $106 to $700, a rise of 560 per cent and expected to result in a $39,900 windfall for council on that change alone. After general discussion about the rise in rates, fees and charges, the Korumburra Business Association passed the following motion: “That the Korumburra Business Association expresses its concern about the excessive rise in shire rates and charges, including the increase in the cost of trading and business permits, and supports its local councillors in calling for a complete review of shire expenditure and services ahead of preparing the 2014-15 budget. “We also respectfully request that this review be completely open and transparent and that the community of Korumburra be consulted with as part of this process.

The KBA also went on to express concern about the inadequacy of the Korumburra water supply, noting that members were worried that it might be holding back the town’s potential. It was noted that Burra Foods now employs in excess of 100 people and the KBA wanted to be assured by South Gippsland Water that water supplies to the factory were secure now and into the future. They also wanted to be briefed on plans to provide for the growth of the town into the future and will seek a meeting with the water authority. On other matters, the KBA:
– Is going to petition the shire to locate some of its office services at Korumburra
– Is looking for volunteers to join the organising committee for the annual Christmas Family Fun Day
– Wants to establish a new website
– Expressed concern about the low profile given to Korumburra in the Gippsland Regional Growth Plan.
Two businesses; Work Solutions Gippsland and local solar and power efficiency firm, NRG Innovators Gippsland, provided briefings on their business operations for the business members.