Asbestos rates exemption looks to stick despite councils’ opposition

Member of Albury Greg Aplin says Greater Hume Council's concern with an exemption on rates paid on asbestos-affected properties acquired by the government is an issue for the Minister for Finance.
Member of Albury Greg Aplin says Greater Hume Council's concern with an exemption on rates paid on asbestos-affected properties acquired by the government is an issue for the Minister for Finance.

The NSW government should pay rates on asbestos-affected property it has acquired, both Greater Hume and Berrigan mayors believe, but it looks unlikely the decision will change.

This week Greater Hume Council resolved to seek the support of Member for Albury Greg Aplin on the issue, with the lost revenue in unpaid rates feared to impact council’s budget.

Mayor Heather Wilton called it “extremely disappointing” that Property NSW had decided to seek a rates exemption.

Only two blocks of land have been sold so far out of 38 across the shire, which has the second-largest number of affected properties in NSW but the most per capita.

Berrigan is the third-worst affected local government area, and mayor Matthew Hannan believed his council would not be as affected by the rates decision, as they were further along in the process.

“Out of the 19 properties six have been sold, one was retained by the owner and there’s 12 left, they’ll come up for resale as they are rehabilitated,” he said. 

“The first installments of our rates (on those properties) have been paid up until the current financial year.

“The net effect on us for a full year (of rates not paid) would be about $9500, less the properties that get sold.

“We’d like to have thought the state government would have paid the rates, however the decision has obviously been made and I don’t know we have a lot of recourse to do anything about that.”

Mr Aplin said he would forward the request of Greater Hume to the Minister for Finance Victor Dominello.

“The council accepts the government’s position is legally correct, so it will be for the minister to consider any other options,” he said.

“I am aware that the NSW government has made a financial commitment of over $16 million in Greater Hume LGA through the loose fill purchase and demolition program. 

“This has included for Holbrook-area residents additional one-off funding of $6000 each, to which Greater Hume has contributed $1000 per affected property.”

A Property NSW spokesman said the exemption in the Local Government Act was sought for all state-owned properties. 

“All affected LGAs were notified that Property NSW sought to rely on the exemption from rates for the short time it holds the properties acquired under the program,” he said.

“The properties will be brought to market as part of a coordinated program, post demolition and remediation, taking into account expected buyer interest.”

Greater Hume Council general manager Steven Pinnuck said it was difficult to predict how long it would take for Property NSW to sell all properties – there could be several years of unpaid rates.