Resistance fails

HOMEOWNERS who paid for underground power years ago have lost a bid to stop Vincent council double-dipping by forcing them to contribute to rolling it out across the rest of the city.

In June 2022 councillors voted to add an extra 2.1 per cent to rates bills to help fund the planning of a Vincent-wide undergrounding. It amounted to an average of a bit over $100 extra per residence that year.

But several residents from around Highgate East fronted Vincent’s February electors’ AGM to complain they were effectively being made to pay twice, since they’d already contributed about $3,000 for their power lines to be buried  in 2006.

Perth resident Ante Simic said the original payment to have his power lines sunk was “onerous” and he didn’t believe he should pay for other people’s undergrounding via an extra 2.1 per cent in rates.

Nik Karakashov put in a written objection: “As the owner of two properties within the Town of Vincent which all currently have underground power, I believe this will be an unfair and unreasonable burden to my finances and the finances of my family.

“I clearly remember the expense incurred 15 years ago – thousands of dollars at that time… I have already paid my contribution towards it.”

Highgate’s Ana Marinova wrote from the same template, edited to add more houses: “As the owner of three properties within the Town of Vincent which all currently have underground power, I believe this will be an unfair and unreasonable burden,” she said. 

While the Highgate East residents who already got underground power did pay around $3,000 in infrastructure costs, mayor Emma Cole pointed out other ratepayers also subsidised that program: The council took out a large 

$3.7 million loan at the time so affected residents had an option to pay in instalments over a longer period, with about half taking up that option. The interest on that loan was effectively absorbed by all ratepayers, even if they didn’t get underground power.

And homeowners getting their power sunk under the new plan will still have to make individual contributions, in the order of thousands of dollars, dwarfing the $100 extra per year on the average rates bill that everyone is paying.

“Rating is a collective pursuit,” Ms Cole said at the March council meeting, where the majority of councillors voted not to refund the rate increase. 

“We rate in the City of Vincent against a number of services projects outcomes that are holistically of benefit to the whole council, but it might not be that individuals use all aspects.

“I would be quite taken aback if someone had come to council and said we’d like to have a refund on the rates component that’s gone towards the library because I haven’t borrowed a book for 10 years.”


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