The Unfairness of SAR
The campaign against the unfairness of SAR goes back to late 2014 when the facts were distilled into a cogent argument by the then-chair of PGLOA Steve O’Brien at the AGM of October 2016. This presentation the Silent Sting can be viewed here. The opportunity to correct the unfairnes was available to the City of Busselton during the .drafting of the New Management Agreement in 2015, but PGLOA representations were ignored.
The new Management Agreement is certainly beneficial to the City of Busselton because it absolves the City of on-going financial liability for waterway management but it has three adverse impacts on Port Geographe landowners.
- Under the new Management Agreement DoT is now responsible for annual waterways maintenance. Consequently the State Government picks up most of the tab for the annual coastal and waterways costs and bills the Shire about $300,000 per year. The City’s payment to DoT comes from the WMRF built up over the years by our SAR levy. There is no cap on the amount that can be drawn from the WMRF, and this draw-down is an informal understanding between the City and DoT.
- The area under management to which the SAR is now funding, has been greatly extended along the coastal strip to Morgan Street in the west, and to Baudin Reserve in the east. This extended zone is well in excess of any perceived impacts from the Port Geographe infrastructure – either pre or post-groyne realignment.
- Under the new Management Agreement, the City of Busselton resolved not to make the 25% contribution from annual general municipality collections to waterway management. Consequently we are the only ratepayers in Western Australia paying a SAR to maintain a public waterway facility.
Funds to the amount of $3.4M have now accumulated in the WRMF. Together with annual inputs and the draw-down arrangement, this is likely to remain a relatively static balance into the future. This is virtually ten times the amount that the City is annually taking from the WMRF, albeit with no defined capping. This high balance would indicate that our SAR funds are far in excess for the designated purpose. Furthermore, it is anticipated that with the New Port Geographe development this balance will grow rapidly by the SAR rating on blocks that indeed have no access to waterways.
A major issue for PGLOA is that we are the only ratepayers in the City of Busselton paying the SAR for a public utility. The general public, in far greater numbers than the Port Geographe ratepayers, use the boat ramps and waterways to gain boating access to Geographe Bay.
PGLOA is not averse to paying the SAR but advocates a number of policy options:
- The user-pay principle should apply to the maintenance of public facilities like the launching ramps and parking area.
- At least some of the SAR money, plus the 25% community contributions currently going into the Port Geographe Development Reserve Fund, should be diverted to parks and gardens.
- A pause in the collection of SAR, subject to annual review of coastal management liabilities under the reconfigured groynes.
The PGLOA committee continues to press the City for more equitable outcomes for landowners, as well as better facilities for visitors to Port Geographe. The committee is in constant dialogue and communication with the Mayor and senior administrators of the City in regard to our perceived unfairness of the SAR. PGLOA believes the unfairness of the application of the SAR is gaining traction by the community and some Councillors. Some of the key correspondence can be viewed at the following links:
170310 Email Mayor to Strapp re SAR 10 Mar 2017
170329 PGLOA reply to Mayor re SAR 29 Mar 2017
170626 PGLOA letter to City re draws from WMR & City response 26 Jun 17
170626 City letter to PGLOA re draws from WMR 26 Jun 2017
170801 PGLOA reply to City re draws from WMR 1 Aug 2017
171025 One-page Flyer – Others go out to Sea 25 Aug 2017
171219 BCC CEO Response to One-Page Flyer 19 Dec 2017
180131 PGLOA response to BCC re PG SAR 31 Jan 2018
We are pleased to acknowledge that in 2018-19, the City did reinstate the matching 25% community contribution. Rather than going into the Waterways Management Reserve Fund, where it is liable for State invoicing, it is going into the Port Geographe Development Fund which is under the City’s control. This does not totally remedy the unfairness of the SAR, but we are aware of the procedural and legal difficulties of doing so.