Council wants action on high costs

By Zoe McMaugh

District businesses are at risk of becoming not viable if nothing is done to kerb the growing energy costs in NSW.

Murray River Council intends to champion the fight for fairer costs with support of the Local Government Association.

One of four motions it intends to put to the LGNSW conference this year demands ‘‘urgent action by the state and federal governments to reduce unsustainable and excessive electricity and gas charges on local government, business, industry and individual consumers’’.

Murray River Council Mayor Chris Bilkey said a similar motion has previously been adopted at the conference, meaning it is LGNSW policy.

He said bringing it to the conference again this year will demonstrate that councils need action on the policy now.

‘‘There is ongoing pressure as a result of energy prices, which is being exacerbated by the stresses of the drought and accessibility.

‘‘There is no protection against price increases. Other costs we are facing are increasing in line with CPI, but electricity costs in particular are well above that.

‘‘Those prices are having a substantial impact on residents, and on business and industry.

‘‘We have had a lot of feedback from the smaller communities (within Murray River Council) about these additional stresses. It is making being viable in business so much harder.

‘‘We have several businesses that rely on power and gas, and we fear if this is not addressed we will have a diminished, or at least a stressed, baseline. We can see further disintegration of communities on the back of unsustainable power costs.’’

All motions passed at the conference become LGNSW policy, and are then forwarded to the NSW Government for action.

Cr Bilkey said while he acknowledges that not all motions can be enacted, he said there are some that require more urgent attention than others.

He said the need to address kangaroo populations is another that has been made policy, but then left on the shelf by the NSW Government.

Council will, for the second consecutive year, put a motion for consideration that the NSW Government be lobbied ‘‘to effectively manage the issue of kangaroo numbers generally migrating to areas near water and road networks that create significant hazards to road users in rural New South Wales’’.

Cr Bilkey said this year’s motion additionally highlights the situation is about to become even more dire, as the drought continues to take hold.

‘‘We want to re-energise the momentum on kangaroo control at the Local Government New South Wales level, and it is something we will continue to do separately as well.

‘‘The dangers have not gone away, and now because of the drought we expect to soon see large numbers and affecting crops.

‘‘Spring and summer are going to be very dry, so we expect to see a lot more kangaroos about.’’

Murray River Council's two other motions are related to the ‘‘urgent engagement of the Victorian Cross-Border Commissioner’’ and for additional funding to weed authorities within NSW for noxious weed eradication.

Cr Bilkey said it was important to note that not all motions put to the conference are debated.

He said the annual LGNSW conference is an opportunity to share ideas and discuss issues facing the local government sector and is attended by most, if not all, NSW councils.

‘‘We need to look at how we can best strengthen the Local Government sector in New South Wales, and improve services and conditions for local communities.

‘‘In putting forward our motions we are looking towards improving on the delivery of infrastructure and services, calling on all spheres of government to work in partnership if we are to meet the ongoing challenges before us.’’