LESS than $1 a week. That is the cost of the proposed Greater Taree City Council Environmental Levy to each residential ratepayer.
However, $1 is not just $1 in the local government game of finding and fighting for funding. According to council's environmental project officer, Andrew Paget, that single dollar has the potential to reap an additional $2.80 from state and federal government coffers for the Manning Valley. That is the experience of Great Lakes Shire Council and it is the experience our council wants to replicate.
The levy is an environmental investment strategy that council is keen to introduce and last week it recruited some of its big guns to pitch it to the people in Manning Mall in Taree. A trestle table laden with a summary of the draft Environmental Action Plan (EAP) and surveys was the focal point of a hard-sell community campaign by Mr Paget, council's general manager Gerard Jose and councillor David West.
Thursday morning shoppers stopped, talked with the three men and took away information about the levy that council considers it must introduce if it is to win more environmental grants.
Councillor West passionately engaged shoppers with questions, challenging them to explain why they thought our environment and the proposed levy was important. He said that he had only received positive responses, particularly when he explained that the levy would fund only environmental projects.
"We need this levy to apply for grants. Selling a new council levy to ratepayers can be a challenging experience, but it is the most effective way for council to be able to provide matching funding for applications to external grant programs," Cr West explained.
In simple terms, there are two main reasons for council's push to involve the community in the process of introducing the levy, according to Mr Paget.
"Firstly, we want to know if we got this draft environmental plan right and secondly, we want to know if the community wants the levy," he said.
"Council views the levy as a way of financing additional environmental programs without having to direct resources from other projects."
Council has a wish list of priority environmental projects that it would like to fund and it views the levy as critical to developing effective partnerships with state and federal government departments such as the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the Catchment Management Authority, Crown Lands, DPI Fisheries, Roads and Maritime Services, Department of Planning and Infrastructure, NSW Maritime, as well as local industry and community groups.
The recent roll call of state government environmental funding grants to Greater Taree City Council and Great Lakes Shire Council exposed the power of an environmental levy in funding applications.
Greater Taree City Council secured $47,500 and Great Lakes Council secured $705,000 from the minister for the environment, Robyn Parker.
The funding breakdown is as follows:
o Greater Taree City Council - $27,500 for Old Bar Beach sand dune restoration and $20,000 for Manning River bank stabilisation.
o Great Lakes Shire Council - $215,00 for West Swamp wetland protection and management; $125,000 for Wallambah River water quality and habitat improvement program; $95,000 to address water quality decline in Pipers Bay in Wallis Lake; $250,000 to trial sand nourish ment from Winda Woppa to Jimmys Beach and $20,000 for an inundation coast zone management plan for Elizabeth Beach. Council is keen for residents to complete its Environmental Action Plan survey and contribute written submissions by 14 October.