The Bass Shire Council recently posted answers to questions about Cape Paterson Special Charge Scheme No 27, on the Cape Paterson Community Exchange web site. One of their responses was about those on low incomes. The reply included the statement that the scheme was unlikely to begin for 18 months, and this would give people time to ‘rearrange their finances’.
I would like to know how a pensioner on $19,000 can rearrange her finances to cover a debt of $13,500, or how a pensioner couple on $28,000 a year can restructure theirs to cover a $27,000 debt. As approximately one third of Cape Paterson residents are on low incomes (the council’s own figures), this is a very serious question. Even some owners whose primary place of residence is elsewhere, say their only option is to sell their Cape Paterson holiday home, as they are on a low income and cannot be considered for any hardship scheme. The ‘hardship’ policy appears to offer only one solution to the dilemma of low income people – take out a reverse mortgage and watch interest payments erode the value of their property until it is eventually sold.
The debts for Cape Paterson residents are so high partly because the council are proposing to contribute only around 10 per cent of the costs of the scheme, whereas in recent schemes they have contributed at least 40 per cent (see council website). From surveys of over 200 property owners affected by the levy, carried out by ‘Preserve the Cape’, it appears that only three per cent actually want the scheme to go ahead, even then with some changes. This council claims to be eager to promote community consultation, and we are pleased to hear that this is a policy, and thank the three councillors who oppose the scheme. However, in the case of Special Charge Scheme No 27, appeals to abandon this unfair and unpopular scheme appear to fall on too many deaf ears.
Anne Wilson, member ‘Preserve the Cape’