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”. As at February 2002 the Port Geographe Waterways Management (SAR) Reserve had a balance of approximately $3.3M.
It should be noted that responsibility for the repair and maintenance of canal walls of residential Lots rests with the landowner.
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 money 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 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.
In 2003/4 the Shire (now City), opened a new reserve fund called the Port Geographe Development Reserve (Council) into which the 25% municipality contribution was redirected. Then in 2013 the City abolished the community contribution. Following representations from PGLOA this contribution has since been reinstated. This separate fund had about $155,000 in February 2022 comprising the community contribution and augmented by the return of developer’s bonds.
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).
PGLOA continues to believe the SAR should be directed to the betterment of the precinct and the benefit of the residents.