‘Dangerous, alarming’ property tax strongly opposed by council

p2508 Council Paterson 660

Above: A pleased Councillor Matt Paterson (second from right) during discussion of a second skate park for the town. Alongside him from left, Crs Catherine Satour, Jimmy Cocking and Eli Melky. 

 

By KIERAN FINNANE 

 

The Territory Government’s proposal of a property tax received a big thumbs down at last night’s Town Council meeting. It was one of a number of areas of agreement among councillors, in contrast to the debate (yes, again) around flying the Aboriginal flag from Anzac Hill.

 

The property tax proposal – a 0.1% rate of tax on unimproved land values – is among several contained in a Territory Government revenue discussion paper, and soon to be subject of a round of public consultation meetings.

 

The government is looking for revenue-raising options in face of the downturn in the Territory’s share of the GST. It estimates it would raise annual revenue of about $21m, “costing about $300 each year for an average Darwin home”.

 

Taxing family homes is in contrast to other states where such a tax is on investment properties, council CEO Rex Mooney pointed out. Council’s significant property assets would also be subject to the impost.

 

Mr Mooney kicked off the reaction with the word “alarming”.

 

Mayor Damien Ryan followed up with “dangerous” and an “out and out money grab”.

 

He complained that the proposal comes while Treasury refuses to discuss the unfair conditional rating system for councils, which has some mining companies and pastoral leases paying less than individual householders.

 

He said the tax will confuse the public, as essentially the same tax coming from two tiers of government (rates are also calculated on the basis of unimproved land values).

 

Councillor Eli Melky predicted that the tax would have “a dire effect” on the real estate market and on people living in Alice Springs.

 

Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni took this further: the tax would be “a deterrent” to people coming to live in Alice Springs at a time when the town needs all the help it can get.

 

Mr Mooney had signalled that council will prepare a detailed submission in response to the government’s proposals but councillors wanted to send their own message. They unanimously supported a motion that council “strongly opposes” the imposition of a property tax on the community of Alice Springs.

 

p1928-Todd-Tavern-bottle-shThat wasn’t the only message they had for the NT Government. Mayor Ryan asked councillors to support him in a call for the government to adopt all the recommendations contained in the Trevor Riley review of alcohol policies and legislation. Leaving any one of the measures out would weaken the rest, he said.

Left: Busy drive-through bottle shop in Alice. Council wants police to stay there.

 

The government has indicated that they support all of the recommendations in principle bar one, the ban on bottle shop trading on Sundays.

 

In the Legislative Assembly sittings just concluded they also passed legislation to re-establish the NT Liquor Commission and make related amendments to the Liquor Act. The review recommends that the “the independent and primary decision maker” under the Act.

 

Mayor Ryan, noting the strong local reaction to fewer police stationed at bottle shops, pointed particularly to the review’s recommendations on this: that police remain in the role until trained licensing inspectors take over, and that this measure – known as POSI, Point of Sale Intervention – be maintained until it can be demonstrated that it is no longer required.

 

The current inconsistent presence of police at bottle shops is taking the town “down the path of the previous government”, he said, where one measure (the Banned Drinkers Register) was removed before there was anything in its place and “we all suffer”.

 

Cr Jimmy Cocking, referring to the review’s emphasis on a bipartisan and whole of government approach, asked that a letter expressing council’s views should also be sent to the Leader of the Opposition.

 

Deputy Mayor de Brenni talked about the need for a change in the culture: “alcohol abuse does not discriminate, just as domestic violence does not discriminate”.

 

Cr Melky spoke of the importance of addressing the marketing of alcohol – “it’s in our language, they way we think … it’s a pathway to adulthood”. Mayor Ryan said there a number of very strong recommendations in the review in this regard.

 

Cr Melky also wanted to see tackled the apparently thriving black market. (This is also the subject of recommendations – that there be education campaigns in remote communities on the problems caused by grog running, and additional police resources to restrict it.)

 

Cr Jacinta Price spoke of the need for a holistic approach, supporting those suffering alcohol addiction: they have “underlying issues”, which is the “reason why they become addicted”, she said. (Treatment of alcohol-related problems is the subject of a raft of recommendations).

 

In other responses to the review the government is:

  • introducing a new public interest and community impact test for decisions under the Liquor Act;
  • extending and expanding a moratorium on new takeaway licences; and
  • establishing the Alcohol Review Implementation Steering Committee & Industry Reference Group, which will be coordinated by the Department of Chief Minister.

 

Mayor Ryan will request a meeting between all councillors and head of the implementation team.

 

Another positive note was sounded with enthusiastic in principle support for the construction of a second skate boarding / BMX facility. The proposed location is Newland Park in Gillen, with a number of concept plans (such as pictured below) included in council’s papers last night.

 

p2508 Council skate park concept 660

 

Momentum for this has apparently come from Cr Matt Paterson, a young man himself (27) whose election campaign strongly emphasised engaging with young people.

 

There are a number of options before council, costing between $350,000 and $1.5m.

 

Councillors agreed that the next step is to consult with the community, starting with the Newland Park neighbourhood and the user groups, i.e. skaters and BMX riders.

 

In contrast to all of these areas of agreement, councillors split along predictable lines over Cr Catherine Satour’s motion to allow the Aboriginal flag to be flown on Anzac Hill “on ceremonial occasions” (a compromise from 365 days a year). Such occasions apparently refer to days of importance to Aboriginal people in particular.

 

This debate is the subject of a separate article – here.

 

 

 

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Steve Brown
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Yeh Evelyn I used those words so as not to go into a long winded conversation about the technicalities of Drilling for Gas as it has nothing to do with the conversation at hand… However I am extremely well aware of the dangers or otherwise of Drilling. I have drilled water bores myself and I have family in the exploration business who own their own Rigs. Horizontal Drilling has been in use for a long time it has been developed simply to save costs because you don’t have to drill as many vertical penetrations through the water bearing Aquifers as such it is actually a much safer less expensive method of extraction. Further to this my comment around safety of some forms of Fracking refers to Coal Seam Gas which I substantially oppose.

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  2. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted February 15, 2018 at 7:29 am

    Dear Steve, should I thank you for your long CLP propaganda speech? I will not because I respect your views.
    However I would like you to explain this statement: “Without taking any responsibility for dealing with the consequences.”
    I always take responsibility for my words and actions.
    I am not a Green but an naturist from a long ancestry of herbalists / healers.
    “Firstly under many circumstances fracking is perfectly safe!” I do not like the many circumstances which imply that in some circumstances it is unsafe as it is enough of one circumstance to stuff our water supply. Will you pay for the consequences?
    Let’s talk conventional (I am for) and unconventional (I am against).
    Vertical wells in some formations have been routinely fracked for decades.
    Conventional reservoirs in the past were most commonly penetrated and developed with vertical and directional wells.
    Conventional reservoirs typically have a hydrocarbon accumulation with a distinct oil-water or gas-water contact (due to natural segregation of these fluids via buoyancy). Historically, vertical and directional wells have been perfectly adequate for draining conventional reservoirs.
    In contrast, unconventional reservoirs are many things all at the same time.
    Coal-bed methane, tight-gas sandstone, ultra-deep water, drilling into high temperature / pressure reservoirs, and shale are all forms of unconventional oil and gas activities and/or production.
    Shale reservoirs are most commonly penetrated and developed with horizontal wells. The hydrocarbon in unconventional reservoirs does not have an oil-water or gas-water contact per se (within a targeted shale unit, for instance).
    This condition occurs because shale is so fine grained (the pores are so small) that surface tension, capillary forces, and the presence in the reservoir of mixed wettability (of the minerals and organics) yield an extremely diffuse distribution of fluids (water, oil, and gas).
    Hydraulic fracturing of the shale helps to liberate the hydrocarbons from the groundmass of the shale and the length of the horizontal well makes the whole operation economically feasible!
    But do not play with our water supply.

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  3. Steve Brown
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    Evelyn, So easy to make throw away green propaganda statements without taking any responsibility for dealing with the consequences.
    Firstly under many circumstances Fracking is perfectly safe!
    We’ve been Fracking Conventional and Tight Gas wells for some fifty years. There is an established industry already operating in the Territory and many reliant on it, including for that matter nearly all the Territory’s power supplies!
    Further if we stand in the way and don’t further develop our Gas Supplies as the rest of the country expects us to, there is a price to pay!
    We are going to receive less GST!
    After all why should the rest of Aus. who already have Fracking, support what you believe at their expense?
    In response to this issue you are suggesting that we ask struggling Territorians to pay another level of Tax similar to a second lot of rates every year.
    This, in a shrinking economy!
    We are already struggling with affordability, Land Taxes will translate into higher rents and Higher costs all round.
    I don’t think Territorians can or want to afford that. Especially given that much of the country already receives revenue from “Fracking”, which surprisingly enough, is why their eyebrows are somewhat raised in our direction.
    So we might want to give it all a lot more thought than cheap throw away lines. Not that I’m saying Fracking is the only answer to our revenue issue, it certainly isn’t. We have a shrinking economy because it is being strangled by our Government suffocating any industry that offers potential growth and strangling the life from existing business. The real answer is actually to strangle Government and return to a private enterprise driven economy.

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  4. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted February 14, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Land taxes or fracking for revenues? I choose Land Taxes!

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  5. Dr Who
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    @Steve Brown, I couldn’t agree more, land tax in other states is only on commercial property, not residential, council rates in Alice Springs are high as it is, and as you say, if implemented this new tax would go up every year. I thought the government wanted people to stay in the NT when they retired, these sort of added costs will just add to those that leave already… And for the aggravation it will give people (we all hate new taxes) the amount it is supposed to raise is a non event in the scheme of things.

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  6. Steve Brown
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    The amounts I’ve heard quoted for the initial land tax are far in excess of $300 but even if they weren’t initially they pretty soon would be.
    The Territory has a revenue problem alright. Why? For one reason only!
    We have taken money supplied by other Australians to both develop the North to a point where it can take advantage of the simply enormous economic opportunity that surrounds it, and to improve the plight of our Aboriginal population via similar means.
    Instead of that we have taken the massive extra funding we receive over and above other States and Territories and we’ve built a giant, cumbersome, enterprise stifling, parasitic bureaucracy!
    This is to a point where any Federal attempt to fund development is like throwing the proverbial at a blanket – very very little gets to its intended destination.
    The answer to our revenue issue isn’t more business and entrepreneurial activity stifling tax!
    The answer is less tax.
    Much, much smaller Government along with a huge cultural shift in the attitude of our capital that thinks it is OK to milk of funds and use them to provide lavish recreational facilities and lifestyle for the those that live in the capital while regions struggling with basic infrastructure can’t get their developments off the ground.
    Yeh, we’ve got a problem alright!
    The sooner the Feds enforce their enquiry into funding the sooner we will be able to do something about it.

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  7. Rosalie Schultz
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    $300 per year sounds quite an inconsequential addition to a $550 000 house price. It’s only 60 cups of coffee.
    Doesn’t sound “dangerous” “alarming” or an “out and out money grab” with a “dire effect on the property market”.

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