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Ask The CEO - August 2020

21st August 2020
CEO Nigel Morris answers questions submitted through our newsletter In The Loop!

Ask the CEO (Nigel Morris)

Q. Congrats to Council for starting a baiting program to control rabbits at Carrickalinga. Is the program on-going in order to keep control? - David

We have been controlling rabbits in our coastal reserves for the last ten years through rabbit warren fumigation and Pindone rabbit baiting. This occurs in February and March when the rabbit numbers are at their lowest and food and water is hard for rabbits to find.

Funding has in the past been provided through the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board and in addition through the Council budget. This financial year we have minimal budget, but I understand the importance of an ongoing rabbit control program and Council is looking at alternatives to get results.

Rabbit numbers have increased recently due to green grass and water availability. This is a seasonal boom and bust in population. Places with irrigated lawns and water available year-round, like Carrickalinga, allow rabbits to continue to breed through summer making landscape control hard if all land holders are not controlling. Council would like to look at a regional control program this year with the Carrickalinga community for a landscape scale control on public and private land with assistance from Landscape SA Hills and Fleurieu. This was successfully undertaken at Myponga Beach a few years ago and included a public meeting with information on what we needed to do as a community to reduce rabbit impacts.

Q. Is it true that rates will need to go up above inflation to pay for additional borrowings to pay for the surf club and library as per July agenda? – Des

This is not true.

Council in June 2020 resolved an average rate increase to existing ratepayers of 1.05%, at the time this represented half the inflation rate.

The June report provided the assumption that following the less than inflation increase in Year 1, that to again return Council to a surplus budget and deliver the current scheduled level of services and projects, that in Years 2 to 5 the rates increase for the four years would need to be inflation plus a quarter of a percent.  Therefore, increases over the five years would remain less than inflation.  Years 6 to 10 used the assumption of inflation increases.

Although Council is yet to make final decisions on the Library and Surf Club, debt has never been cheaper.  Council were recently provided a loan facility with an interest rate of 1.45% for a period of three years.  Therefore, with this facility, interest for example on $1,000,000 would equal $14,500, creating a minimal effect on overall rates.

Q. Why has the council ignored rate payer concerns regarding new borrowings for the surf club and library as well as an increase in rates in the coming years? – Des

In my own house I will ask my kids what they want for dinner, rarely do I get all three wanting the same thing, I must evaluate their responses and make a decision.  Generally, one of them is unhappy with my final decision.  I didn’t ignore their feedback; I make a considered decision that I thought was the best overall decision for my family.  Council is similar with the Community.

Council considers all feedback from the community prior to making their decisions.  Council has heard the concerns regarding borrowings but must weigh that up against calls from the community for the need for the facilities, external funding opportunities, ageing asset replacement needs, feedback from the youth and community clubs, economic stimulus opportunities, job creation and more.  I encourage all to attend Council meetings as they debate all options and considerations before making their final decisions.

In the case of the Annual Business Plan and Budget consultation including the Surf Club and Library, following the consultation period Council reduced the budget expenditure on the Library from $2,200,000 to $1,327,093 and continue to seek external funding to assist with the project.  With the Surf Club, Council is yet to make a final decision as they investigate options and continue to focus on getting external funding to lower the borrowings and seek additional income sources to help with the build repayments.

Q. Why doesn’t the Chief Executive live locally?

I was appointed by the Elected Members after an extensive campaign, and although the other candidates were kept in confidence, I have been told no locals made the final interview process.  The Elected Members chose the person that they felt could best serve the community.

Although due to dual family circumstances I am unable to live in the District, I have a policy of buying local where possible, attending every community group meeting I’m invited to, am the last to leave every function, come down on weekends and without living in a specific location or belonging to any clubs within the District is never accused of a bias. It is the role of the Chief Executive to present reports to the Elected Body for consideration to make the major decisions.  All the Elected Members are local.