Background to SAR
The Special Area Rate (SAR) has been levied since the first lots for the Port Geographe Development were rated by the Shire of Busselton in 1996/7. This was spelt out in the original Development Deed between the three proponents – the developer (then Axiom) , the antecedents of the current Department of Transport (DoT) and the then Busselton Shire.
By law, a SAR can be used only by the body that raises it (in this case the Busselton Shire/City), and used only for the designated purpose for which it was established, which in this case is for the maintenance of the Port Geographe foreshore and waterways.
The purpose of the additional rate was to pay for the future maintenance of the coastal (beach) strip immediately west and east of Port Geographe, as well as the entrance channel and associated waterways. This was to become a Busselton Shire/City responsibility once the project was completed by the developer. Because the developer went into liquidation in 2012, this handover never happened.
Under the terms of the development deed, a special fund called the Port Geographe Waterways Management Reserve Fund (WMRF) was established by Busselton Shire for the “benefit of the harbour entrance, harbour bed, canals, breakwaters, and groynes”.
It was further acknowledged in the deed that the Shire/City was to undertake sand and seagrass bypassing, after completion of the development. It was intended that the amount in the WMRF should build up to more than the cost of one year’s bypassing to cover some of this cost.
With the construction of public boat ramp facility by the original developer, which is now used profusely by the general public to navigate via the Port Geographe waterways to Geographe Bay, the then Shire of Busselton initiated a community contribution to the WMRF taken from the total general municipality rate of the Shire. This amount was 25% of the total SAR collected each year from Port Geographe landowners.
However in 2003/4 the Shire for unexplained reasons, opened a new reserve fund called the Port Geographe Development Fund into which the 25% municipality contribution was redirected. Then in 2013 the City totally abolished the community contribution. This separate fund had about $580,000 at the beginning of the 2015/16 fiscal year, as a result of the community contribution. It has subsequently been augmented by the return of developer’s bonds, and now stands at about $1.6M.
In 2014 after the successors to the original developer (a party to the original Port Geographe Development Deed) went into administration and eventual receivership, Busselton City and Department of Transport (DoT) developed a new Port Geographe Management Agreement for coastal and waterway management. This was to apply after completion of the reconfiguration of the port entrance. Significantly it did not have the further involvement of any developer.
PGLOA as an interested party, unsuccessfully sought to re-negotiate the terms of the SAR during the development of the new management deed. Our submission to the City is referenced here (PGLOA Report on Special Area Rate Jan 2014).
The City took no notice of this carefully researched and well reasoned submission.