A Katherine landlord has questioned why main street businesses bother to pay rates if the council says it has little involvement in the street's affairs.
Katherine Times spoke to Mayor Fay Miller earlier this month about ways the council could revitalise the town’s declining CBD.
“It is pertinent at this time to mention that council does not own the main street, it is up to DIPL (Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics) to make arrangements with businesses,” Mayor Miller told Katherine Times.
The landlord, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was frustrated by the Mayor’s comment after he paid more than $14,000 in rates last year.
“Fay Miller said it was not her problem, well it is your problem, it is your town and the main street is the first thing people see when they drive into town,” he said.
“Businesses in the main street are paying a lot of money to council but council said that they do not own the main street.
“My question is, why are businesses and landlords giving them so much money if they do not own it, and are not willing to spend any money?”
The Mayor said council would work through Chamber of Commerce to encourage proprietors to be reasonable with rents and upgrade shops.
“You could count the upgrades to buildings on Katherine Terrace in the last 20 years on one hand,” she said.
Some retailers have said the steady rise in council rates in the last few years have pushed up rent prices in town.
“That is absolute rubbish, bring out the rates from the last two years or so, it has been minimal,” Mayor Miller has said.
The landlord said his rate increase had almost doubled in the last 10 years, and provided Katherine Times with copies of his rates notices.
Katherine Town Council CEO Robert Jennings said the Northern Territory Government is responsible for the town’s main street.
“The Mayor is right, the main street itself is owned by the NT Government, the road the medium strip and some of the lighting.
“Council is responsible for the services businesses use in town, including bins and other municipal services.
An NT Government spokeswoman said the department spends $600,000-$700,000 a year maintaining Katherine Terrace.
“The works relate to all assets within the road reserve including street lights, traffic signals, footpath scrubbing and cleaning, litter collection, garden and verge maintenance, street furniture,” the spokeswoman said.
“The department’s responsibility does not extend beyond the property boundaries.”
The spokeswoman said the street was maintained to “the best of our ability in an environment that has many social and environmental challenges”.
The spokeswoman said there were no funds identified specifically for “beautification works”.
A council spokeswoman said rates are charged to land owners within the municipality of Katherine based on the unimproved capital value of the land.
“In this case the private owners of the land on which commercial businesses in the main street are located,” the spokeswoman said.
“The levying of rates is not based on the ownership of the road adjacent to private land.
“Rates provide council with a source of revenue to perform the functions allowed under the Local Government Act and required by the local community.”
The spokeswoman said many of these functions are for general public and community benefit or have some element of community service obligation and cannot be fully funded from user pay charges.
“The revenue from rates funds a range of community infrastructure and services which are available to all landowners, including the private land owners adjacent to the main street:
- Public conveniences,
- The cemetery,
- The aquatic centre,
- The showgrounds,
- Sporting facilities,
- Library services,
- Community centres,
- Halls, cultural and entertainment venues,
- Animal control,
- Health programs,
- Public order controls,
- Economic development,
- The collection of waste, and
- Operating and maintaining a waste management facility.”