David Speirs, Environment Minister (5AA 9.09-9.15) NRM Levy increases & impacts on council rates
(Byner: You are about to be stung but when you get your rate bill you’ll probably think it’s your council – it isn’t, it’s the NRM Levy … it’s increasing … up to 9% but as it’s based on your property value the increase will actually be more. It was approved when Labor controlled the Natural Resource committee. This entity is a bureaucracy that’s got more powers than the police. Their officers can enter your property, confiscate anything they deem relevant … do not need a warrant … the Parliament were naïve fools when they gave this power over years ago. Fathers have reported Gestapo-like methods used by officers … this rort – it’s a wealth tax, it has to be challenged … this type of taxing falls heaviest on lower income earners … this growing bureaucracy has powers no Liberal Government should tolerate. Reforming this body should be a priority of a Liberal Government especially as the Liberals in opposition failed to notice how punitive this whole thing was … David Speirs … David, a 9% increase in the NRM Levy which … is based on the site value of where you live, this is going to be an impost not only on ratepayers but farmers – how do we justify this?) Well it is difficult to justify … this was locked in by the previous government, it’ll be the last time we’ll see hikes like this because the new Liberal Government’s going to bring in a cap in forthcoming years, we weren’t able to do that this year because … this was already set in motion … your listeners have an ironclad guarantee from me that if I can get my new legislation through Parliament … I’ll be capping the levies going forward at around about CPI because you can’t have these year on year rises of six, seven, eight per cent like we’ve had in recent years … (Byner: it’s going to be an impost on the growers … the bureaucracy seems to be growing exponentially … what’s the CEO of NRM get?) Well look, it’s managed under my department so the Environment Department CEO … the previous CEO was paid $360,000 … (Byner: $360,000?) That’s correct, we’ve got an Acting CEO at the moment and we’ll be reviewing all that sort of stuff in due course … NRM has raised a lot of money for a lot of years in South Australia, we need to be looking at what it has delivered for our environment … farmers tell me, people out on the ground tell me that they want to get back to basics looking after water, soil quality, dealing with pests, plants and animals … (Byner: that’s what it’s supposed to be doing, what are they doing instead?) Well it does a bit of that … it’s drifted too far in recent years into centralised environmental bureaucracy. The new Government’s been really clear with particularly regional communities, Adelaide as well but particularly in the regions, we do need to get back to those basics and we’re going to be repealing the NRM Act, replacing it with a simpler piece of legislation which will focus on the water, the soil quality, the pests … and looking at overall sustainability of our agricultural … (Byner: so there’s nothing you can do now about what was set in train by the previous government?) Not for the 2018/19 year because the legislation requires the business plans to be in place well beforehand, those were all signed off … as the Government transitioned … nothing we can do this year but I can guarantee … we are in a position where we’ll be replacing this act and we’ll be moving to a capped levy where the rises will sit at around about CPI going forward. (Byner: … the NRM have got extraordinary legal powers where they can go onto your property, remove anything they wish, no judges warrant … we have to look at that, surely?) Oh absolutely … as part of the significant reform we are undertaking in the repeal of the act we’ll be looking at simpler legislation. We need some compliance in there … to make sure people do the right thing by our environment … it’s my job … to make sure that happens … we want to get a bit of balance … I have had feedback that people do the see the compliance side of it has gotten out of whack in recent years, instead of partnering with local communities relying on people who have knowledge of our land we’ve taken the big stick approach, I want to try and correct that as well.
Sue Clearihan, President, LGA (5AA 9.15-9.17) NRM Levy increases & impacts on council rates
(Byner: Let’s talk to … Sue Clearihan … I think the community’s with you on this … you’ve gotta pass this on, on your rates don’t you?) That’s right … it varies, the amount levied by the State Government varies across the State … it depends on the property valued in your council area … if for example you’ve had increased development or if your property values have gone up … the levy goes up with it … the local government’s concern is that this levy is on council rates when they go out but it has absolutely nothing to do with the work that council does … what we want to see is the State Government taking responsibility for the collection of its own taxes … if it’s on the rate notice people immediately assume it’s a council levy, it’s a council tax and it’s not. (Byner: And the Zero Waste charges are the same aren’t they?) Well they are … our problem … with the recent China Sword policy where they’re refusing to take a lot of our recycle material … councils are now stuck with huge costs associated with either stockpiling, sending it to somewhere else or having to try and process it itself … the costs are just going up, State Government has imposed a further increase in our levy … there was $100m sitting in the fund that councils had contributed and that seems to have disappeared, we have seen $12m of it given to industry to look at recycling but local government or local councils … have not seen any of it at all.
John Darley, Independent MLC (5AA 9.17-9.20) NRM Levy increases
(Byner: John Darley … this has been something that you’ve been on for a while, what is your concern about this?) … my concern as always has been the fact that the NRM Boards and their staff is one of the most bloated organisations in the public service … the new Government is going to repeal the Natural Resource Management Act and replace it with … the Landscape Act. I’m now on the Natural Resources Committee and … I’m suggesting … we understand that bill will be introduced in 2019 but I’m suggesting to that committee that we carry out an inquiry as to what the new Landscape Act is all about and have a root and branch examination of what they intend to do … I put up a bill … twice before in terms of the … compulsory operational audit of every agency of Government whereby you say … let’s examine every activity undertaken. And if it’s not required it goes, if it remains is it being performed in the most efficient manner? And then finally is it being performed in the most effective location? And that’s what I want the Natural Resources Committee to do with the provisions of this new Act before it even hits the Parliament. (Byner: Do you have any idea how much money this NRM Levy’s raised over the years?) Oh no … well it’s raised a lot of money but it’s a matter of where it’s been spent, it’s just been wasted … (Byner: how do you know?) Having looked at what they’re doing … you only have to look around … in the Mount Lofty Ranges and the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges, they’ve got all these offices and you can go there any day of the week and there are Government cars out the front doing nothing … the only time they go out is to penalise farmers.
Leon Byner, Presenter (5AA 9.49-9.50) Email from Mayor John Trainer: NRM Levy increases
Now this is from John Trainer … the soon to retire Mayor of West Torrens: “The NRM combined the old water catchment boards, native vegetation boards, vermin boards, West Torrens like many other councils whose in the Mount Lofty Ranges NRM zone, our suburban ratepayers’ levies cover spending in non-metropolitan areas down to the Fleurieu Peninsula. The levy is a state tax that should not use councils as their local tax office. Why can it not be collected as part of State land tax or SA Water bills?” John, you’re absolutely right … the previous government … would go out of their way to disguise taxes and charges. I don’t know how many times I’ve played you that wonderful piece from Professor Dick Blandy … the water asset … the management’s private but they asset we own – how they’ve overvalued it so they can charge us another $300 a year … all that is, is a wealth tax.