Article in the Daily Telegraph
By: PIERS AKERMAN
HOW would you feel if you learned that from Thursday, the Carr Labor
Government was to slug you, and every other homeowner in NSW, with a new
And what if that tax was to be based on a formula that took into account
the area of your home's driveway, the value of your property, adjusted
in line with market values, and a set rate of return of 3.05 per cent
which would also be periodically reviewed.
Well, the good news is that the Government is not going to hit you with
a tax on your driveway, but the bad news is that it intends to slam the
1000 or so homeowners who have water access only to their properties
with this inequitable tax from July 1.
That is, those people who live along the Hawkesbury and around Pittwater
and have no road access are going to be unjustly financially punished by
the Government for their decision to live a slightly alternative
They already pay rates to their local councils, just as people who can
drive their cars to their doorways do. They pay the usual range of state
charges (though they don't -- for the most part -- have access to water
or sewerage services).
Now the Government wants to hit them with a punitive tax on their
jetties, the only means they have of getting home at night, for reasons
which can only be ascribed to the meanest of character deformities,
envy. It is true that many of these property owners bought their places
for what now seem reasonable prices at a time when the additional burden
access only seemed to most people an additional handicap. The thought of
taking a boat ride in the dawn dark of a cold wintry morning was too
much for many.
The idea of living on rain water, relying on a septic tank, having the
inconvenience of the tides, the lack of immediate access to hospitals,
stores, cinemas, libraries, sports fields, schools, meant that those
living in water-access-only areas coped with degrees of difficulty most
didn't want to endure.
When they chose to embrace this lifestyle, they either built or
maintained existing jetties for which they paid a private occupancy fee
of about $70 to $100. In recent years the Government started shifting
the goalposts, trying to introduce an annual licence fee. Now it wants
to hit them with an additional sum not charged other homeowners.
Unfortunately, exactly what homeowners will be slugged under the tax
can't be calculated yet because the Lands Department still has not
worked out what another factor in the equation, the precinct value, will
be -- and it won't have that answer for one or two months.
I'm aware of this singular tax because for more than a decade my family
has had a place on the water. I've held off writing this column for
several months because of the obvious charge of conflict of interest,
but the arrogant high-handed approach of the Government and the Lands
Department has now caused me to override that concern.
LABOR MP Marie Andrews, whose electorate of Peats covers much of the
Hawkesbury, was scheduled to bring a Lands Department representative to
a meeting of gravely concerned water-access residents two weeks ago. She
cancelled; the public servant was a no-show. Lands Minister Tony Kelly
was to have a meeting before the state Budget with representatives of
the same group in company with Opposition Leader John
Brogden, whose Pittwater electorate contains numerous water-access-only
homeowners on Scotland Island and the Pittwater's western foreshore. Mr
Kelly, too, cancelled at the last moment. Mr Brogden says it is unfair
to levy an extra charge on a group of people
who ``unlike the rest of us don't have a driveway''.
He says a minimum cost-recovery administration fee would be appropriate
for the small number of water-access- only homeowners.
``They shouldn't be pulled out and punished or painted as elite. Many of
the affected homes are quite modest on small blocks of land, it can be a
quite challenging lifestyle,'' he said.
The Carr Government must recognise that ordinary people have a right to
access their homes and that a serious question of equity is at stake. If
it blindly pursues those who chose, under the rules of the day, to live
in affordable if slightly inaccessible areas, it will destroy some of
the most intricate communities in the state, communities that are models
self-reliance and community service.
These people don't live in Point Piper or Mosman, they have jetties, not
driveways. They are, in the main, the battlers who make up the local
rural fire brigades, the bush revegetation groups, the fundraising
committee for the local kindergarten.
By imposing this unjust extra charge, the Government will drive out the
very people Labor claims to protect and ensure that all waterfront
property falls into the hands of the wealthy, the spivs and wide-boys.
It must reconsider this illogical and unjust charge.
Response from the Minister.
I am pleased that Piers Akerman, in his
article headed ``Envy waters down a unique lifestyle'' (Daily Telegraph,
June 29), has disclosed his family's ownership of a waterfront property.
It is important in matters affecting public policy that personal
motivations are clearly differentiated from public interest. Jetty
owners such as Mr Akerman pay a rent, not a tax, for permission to
construct, on publicly owned property, jetties and other foreshore
Last year the Government referred to the Independent Pricing and
Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) the matter of jetty rentals. Included in the
referral, IPART was asked to consider those jetty owners who had water
IPART has handed down its decision, which established that the land on
which private jetties were constructed was a valuable public asset, and
the community is entitled to a reasonable return on this asset. IPART
also recommended that a special rebate of $250 apply to water access
The Government sought independent advice to establish an equitable
rental policy. It is now up to Mr Akerman to accept the umpire's
Lands Minister, Sydney
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The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Scotland Island Residents Association, or any of the associated Pittwater Offshore Resident's Committees