Standing is Des Phelan Mayor of the Golden Plains Shire talking to Cr Bill McArthur, with police present at the special Council meeting to accommodate rate ratepayers.

Batesford Residents urge Golden Plains Shire to revisit budget. AT a special council meeting attended by 50-60 ratepayers (and 2 police officers), residents of Golden Plains Shire (GPS) were given their chance last Thursday to voice what they felt was wrong with the GPS draft Budget.

Almost half of the submissions received by council this year came from Batesford, which covers approximately 200 homes. Batesford’s major concerns outlined by two residents David Head and Owen Sharkey were: Batesford’s cost increase is rising 10-20 times more than other townships in the Shire; Failure of Council to communicate and address

Batesford’s concerns (drainage, paths, lack of open space); Not enough cuts to the budget to help in reducing the impact of raising rates; Detrimental effect of rates increase on house prices on Batesford homes; A demonstrated lack of natural justice or fair play when distributing funding across the Shire; The council was urged to apply a fairer proportion of cost across the Shire by increasing the municipal charge to cover costs of services which are accessed by all ratepayers. Mr Sharkey, who is also BAGPRRA (Batesford And Golden Plains Ratepayers and Residents Association) Vice President, said it had been a good meeting with a good turnout of residents. “Batesford are now putting in submissions to the way in which we are rated at,” he said.

“I suppose the biggest motivator of all people is when they can physically see the amount of money they are paying and what they are getting.

“Rokewood, for example, is only going up $8 this year and Batesford is going up 24 times that amount.” Mr Sharkey concedes that rate increases are something that need to be expected but asks why council expenditure is not being cut. “I have spoken to a lot of people, some retired, who are actually looking at selling homes because they can’t afford the rates,” he said.

“There is very little infrastructure, very little money being spent (in Batesford). We are very much challenged because we are a border town and half our township is in Geelong and the other half in Golden Plains so it does make it sort of very challenging for us but most people in Batesford don’t want anything, “I moved to Batesford and the paths and parks never really bothered me but then once the rates start going up you start thinking where is our bang for buck coming from and at the end of the day – personally my rates have doubled in the last five years, gone from $1800 to nearly $4000 this year probably.” Mr Sharkey added that the Golden Plains Shire now has a number of groups made up of disgruntled residents who want answers and action.

“There is BAGPRRA, Voice in Action, and a lot of people putting in these submissions but if it will be run like a dictatorship well there is no point in the community having any say,” Mr Sharkey added.

“If they change one thing from the budget, this year, then at least they are willing to recognise that okay the public is right about a couple of things. “I think if we get one change its more than has ever been done before but I think we all know we have to wait it will be pure and simple when Rod Nicholls (CEO) is removed, then things can actually change and hopefully change for the better. “We need to be told by council that all our time and effort (submissions) has not been wasted. Personally, from my point of view if nothing gets changed in this budget, well I think we just hang our hats on the door and do nothing. “There is no point in a dictatorship and just let it run its course and it won’t be until next year that things can change.”

Apart from the rates issue, a number of residents and action groups have submitted a report to ombudsman regarding rubbish collection in the shire, and issue that has been brewing for some time.

“That’s been a very lengthy detail we have gone through a long process to get that and it’s not just to do with the actual rubbish collection, it’s to do with the process council went about to come to the decision, because the public was kept very much out of the loop,” Mr Sharkey said. “Even if they had come to the conclusion that they did, and ratepayers had to cop that on the chin, but it’s very much been slid under the door.”

Even though he is part of an action group Mr Sharkey feels they are not a good thing for the shire and sends out the wrong message to people who are not in the Golden Plains Shire. “These action groups, and the word is a few more are starting up, it’s not a good thing, it would be a lot nicer putting that effort and energy into making the shire a better place, it’s not good when we keep going to the press saying how bad it is, and its detrimental to our overall house prices,” he said.

“People want to move to Bannockburn and Batesford but when they see the rates and the carry on in the paper every few months and A Current Affair, it doesn’t help.”