Former mayor of Warren Shire Rex Wilson OAM is promoting a one-off and conditional local government rates freeze as the drought tightens its stranglehold on the western region.
Cr Wilson, a farmer who stepped down as mayor in September after 30 years at the helm, sees first-hand the “enormous financial, psychological and emotional pressure” the drought places on men and women of the land as well as townspeople.
“Things have just gone south in every direction,” he said.
Cr Wilson acknowledges the rates freeze would be a “brave” move under the current local government system and insists if councils approved it they should not be “penalised by receiving less grants” or having “a catch-up imposed” on them.
“This should be a one-off meaningful gesture in particular for rural ratepayers but not just them because a lot of people in town are doing it tough as well,” he said.
“Circumstances at the moment are exceptional.”
Cr Wilson believes local government has a “role to play” in providing drought relief.
“The state and federal governments have both done some things which you would have to say are worthwhile as far as the drought goes,” he said.
“I think local government is so pushed under the current arrangements that it seems we have been unable to join the other tiers of government in actually doing something meaningful about drought.
“I would love to think that we could at least put a freeze on local government rates. “It would be telling the community that we understand the issues.”
The former mayor thinks an across-the-board rates freeze would be "easy to administer and fair to everybody because it would be pro rata on what rates you were paying”.
I think local government is so pushed under the current arrangements that it seems we have been unable to join the other tiers of government in actually doing something meaningful about drought.Former mayor of Warren Shire Council Rex Wilson
“I’d love local government in general to get behind something like this but I think the system is such that you’ve got to be brave to go against it,” he said.
A fourth-generation resident of the Warren district, Cr Wilson is candid about the impact of the drought on his own property.
“Having put my life into it, it’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen it,” he said.