2022 Email header

Thank you for re-electing me to a second term on Hawkesbury City Council at the elections last December.

It has been a busy start to the term, and I'd like to keep you informed about some issues affecting you that have come before the new chamber.

Nathan Zamprogno Signature Transparent
Councillor Nathan Zamprogno

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Hawkesbury Council Rates 2022
Click here to see the video.

I think Hawkesbury Council's method for calculating residential rates fairly is broken. I've been trying to fix it since I was first elected in 2016.

Your rates have risen sharply over the last few years. Council will take in $44M in rate revenue in 2022-23, up from $30.5M in 2016-17. In other words, up by 44% when the cumulative inflation rate over the same period was 11.6%. I voted against each and every hike.

But it's not just the amount – it's the way this tax is apportioned. Some households are paying three times what they used to because of distortions in land value compounded by Council changing the rating formula through what's called the 'base rate'. This has shifted the burden to some households and has mucked up a formula that increasingly ignores the decoupling of income to land value.

I don't think this is fair when these residents are making much the same use of services from Council as they always have, and their ability to pay is unlikely to have risen in the same proportion to the hike over the same period.

Council has resolved to model a move back to a 'base rate' of 50% after the previous Council moved it to 30%. It's not a complete fix, but it is a step in the right direction to restore fairness. In my video, I explain what's going on and why this is important.

I've put more details at the link below.
Also in relation to the Budget, I'm pleased to report a small win.
Many homeowners around the Hawkesbury are on properties with more than one septic system, such as dual occupancies. I've been advocating for years that if two systems are on the same property, it isn't fair for Council to charge twice when those systems require inspection. In many cases, both systems are owned by the same family.

Plenty have complained to me that the inspector arrives and inspects one system, walks 20 meters to inspect the second system, ticks two forms and then bills the owner 2 X $160, which sounds like a bit of a rort.

I took this up with staff as a sensible reform we should implement. I'm pleased to report that the Operational Plan we voted to exhibit at Council on Tuesday night (being our Budget and schedule of fees and charges for FY2022-2023) now says that dual-septic properties will be billed as one.

There's more to do – I'd prefer to see inspections opened up to competition to lower prices, and our fees for pump-out is a huge impost to many homes. I'm continuing to advocate for better solutions, but without State government intervention, Council is limited in what it can do.
A New Accountability Measure - Report cards on Councillor Attendance and Expenses
Click here to see the video.

You're entitled to expect that your elected Councillors turn up to as many meetings as they can. It’s a critical part of our job.

Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case. When the Hawkesbury Gazette sought figures on Councillor attendance in 2019, it found fragmented data. I was acknowledged as having among the best attendance records of any Councillor.

I resolved to do what I could to improve accountability.

Legally, Councillors can only be censured if they miss multiple formal Chamber meetings, but that accounts for only about a third of what Councillors do. Data is either not collected, or not summarised relating to attendance at briefings, workshops, committee meetings and community consultation sessions.

So, I moved a motion at a Council meeting which called for a report card on Councillor attendance to be presented both annually and before elections which covers a wider range of meetings and events that Councillors attend.

In the course of debate, the motion was widened to encompass reporting of Councillor expenses and to demand proof that Councillors got value and shared the knowledge they got out of any conferences we attend, and I thank Councillors for this constructive input that improved the motion.

You might share my surprise that some Councillors opposed this sensible measure of accountability. Some said they were insulted by the idea. I think you can be the judge.
Just before the most recent floods hit the district, I was interviewed on ABC Sydney's Breakfast show on the well-worn subject of whether it is wise to raise Warragamba Dam. I appeared on the program before on the same subject in 2019.

The EIS concludes that the 0.05% of the World Heritage Area fringing lake Burragorang enduring temporary inundation in rare flood events will not be damaged by the project. And I don't see the project as a stalking horse for unfettered development on the floodplain, which I oppose. I support the project because there are 140,000 people who live and trade on the floodplain, and I don't want them to die, or see their houses flooded, possessions ruined, or livelihoods destroyed. The 2021 flood ruined 600 homes. If flood mitigation in the form of a higher dam had already been in place, 500 of those houses would have been spared. I think those opposing flood mitigation should first speak to those 500 families before they pass judgement. Often those opponents live high and dry and out of harms way. But we are the community at risk, and our voice deserves to be heard.

Recently, Hawkesbury Council voted to reaffirm its traditional support for raising Warragamba Dam, and I am pleased that the complexion of the chamber has changed to permit that.

Recent events have only proven that our valley will flood and flood again, and we should be prepared.

The link below will show you the video of the most recent flooding we endured in March, which was even higher than last year.
The March 2022 floods
The Rural Boundary Clearing Code
Last year you will recall that the old Council voted not to adopt the 'Rural Boundary Clearing Code' due to concerns that the code couldn't be monitored without additional resources being allocated by Council. Without new geospatial and mapping tools we were moved to caution because what we can't measure, we can't determine the impact of. Worse, we were concerned that the local Rural Fire Service were not consulted and heard that the potential impacts on Koala habitats are dire. Opinion from wise RFS members and stakeholders seemed split on the wisdom of adopting the Code and this certainly flagged that more consideration was needed.

The new Council lost no time in overturning that position in January, and rammed the Code through without any of those concerns being addressed. This outcome disappointed me – not because I oppose the code, but because our job is to be deliberative, respectful and evidence based. The way in which the chamber ignored that evidence and silenced dissenting voices struck me as cynical and lost us respect in the community. I've added two further videos to my original article summarising just how awfully this debate was handled. If you care for balancing the environment with fire safety I encourage you to take an interest.
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Get in touch with me at any time on 0427 122 419 or at nathan@councillorzamprogno.info

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