Opinion

Why should ratepayers pay for free tip usage?

By Shepparton News

Everybody likes something for nothing. "Free" is the catalyst for most of we humans to prick up our ears — particularly our municipal ears.

“Buy one, get one free” is a great commercial incentive when buying left-handed hair combs — even for selling last week’s stale meat pies. But besides ratepaying bald people or pie-eating puppy-feeders, the ravenous ‘free’ appetite of council ratepayers is difficult to beat.

Of course council's ‘free’ parking (whatever that may be) is out on its own, isn’t it, but free waste disposal, be it kerbside hard-rubbish collection or free tip vouchers, runs a very close second.

Categorically there can never be ‘free’ rubbish disposal — somebody always coughs up at the end of the day, be it, for example, all hapless ratepayers or garbage charge payers (to pay landfill provision, wages, overheads and state government Environment Protection Authority levies). Why should every ratepayer who pays garbage waste charges have to pay for ‘free’ users (voucher or tip free days or worse, hard-rubbish collection)?

There are more reasons why not. Here are a couple. First, although often wrongfully suggested, there is no evidence that ‘free’ waste disposal would alleviate roadside or bushland dumping — that porcine practice is more likely opportunistic, convenient fee-dodging and often perhaps as a result of eviction and/or relationship breakdown.

In the case of ‘free’ tip vouchers comes the logistical confusion between tenants (who are not directly levied with waste charges) and owner/occupiers, besides all the on-costs of ‘free’ waste disposal explained above.

If a council election does happen to get organised as scheduled for October, beware of the candidate promising ‘free’ rubbish disposal.

● Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry has voiced its concerns claiming, with respect to council’s Mall Revitalisation Plan, that the city has “proceeded past the community consultation phase without sufficient consultation from stakeholders, CBD traders and the chamber”.

How often do we hear versions of “council’s not listening to us”? The various translations of which all eventually boil down to “council isn’t doing precisely what we want it to do".

“Insufficient consultation” in many situations can mean we haven’t got near exactly what we want but we’ll keep beating the drum and hope we’ll convince others to join the chorus.

Now various versions of the Maude St Mall Revitalisation have literally been kicked down the road periodically over the past 25 years and bar some “cosmetics” not much has changed — in spite of the CBD’s difficulties, with online and satellite competitive retail complexes, being blamed on the hapless mall.

Two points of conjecture stick out: the removal of trees (which I and heaps of others vehemently oppose, as it seems does the SCCI) and the introduction of traffic, including parking (a cluttering, retrograde step).

Certainly the mall needs a tarting-up but a lot of that is up the landlords.

So far as the chamber is concerned, it would be much better off pursuing the other near 25-year plan to divert the Goulburn Valley Hwy (between High and Fryers) single each way lanes, complete with heaps of traffic-calming devices, out of Wyndham into Welsford — in the hope of rediscovering the then main drag's popularity of the 1960s and 70s.

Council could commission a short mall revitalisation telephone survey of the most important stakeholders — the ratepayers. The last one, I think, resulted in about near 80 per cent opposed to the reintroduction of the dreaded motor car. Times may have changed.

● The first municipal clerk (shire secretary, town clerk — now chief executive officer) I worked for, Ben Perry, back in 1972, was a prudent, no-nonsense practitioner who’d started his local government career as a 14-year-old office boy at the then City of Brunswick. He was a shrewd operator, often with a dismissive nature with people, including councillors, who were clearly less intelligent than he was.

He had a wide range of quaint vernacular anecdotes — I loved them.

Recent flash-flood council bashing from fellow citizenry, who like me choose to live on a flat river floodplain, reminded me of a saying Ben trotted out as we entered Mooroopna’s M. G. O’Brien Hall to attend a post-flood public meeting in late May, 1974.

“You know young fella, this will be a waste of time,” he said. "You can’t talk sensibly about floods to people whose socks are dry.”

The first silly proposition to pump Mooroopna’s flood water from the hospital to the Shepparton side of the Goulburn gave some credence to my senior’s prediction.

More importantly, how well are we prepared for an inevitable future flood? Remember, every day brings us closer to the Goulburn and Broken rivers seriously misbehaving themselves.