Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Citizen Card

I believe Aaron Buman’s idea of a “Newcastle Card” is poorly argued, divisive and discriminatory (H, 29/12). It would place Newcastle residents into two camps; ratepayers and the rest. Non-ratepayers have rights( and they vote in Council elections).

Most tenants may not pay rates directly, but rates are factored into rents that they pay. Most are relatively low income earners.

Would his idea include libraries, the new museum, beaches, Merewether Baths , parks and ovals?

The possibilities are endless. Why not charge to use public toilets, children’s playgrounds, cycleways or to promenade on the Foreshore? Then there are non-rate paying residents who don’t have off-street parking. Why not charge a fee to park in the street?

Many suburban pool users are low income earners with families, who pay rent and don’t have the luxury of a back yard pool.

Do ratepayers’ partners get one if the property is listed only in one name? Would each child receive a card?

Blackbutt is not, as Cr Buman alleged, a “zoo”. It’s a regional park and reserve. And you already pay a fee to visit the animal enclosures. Further, there is no “entry fee to access Fort Scratchley”, though there is one for the tunnels.

And what would motivate local retailers to give “bonuses” exclusively to ratepayers, as with NRMA cards?

Novocastrians are very reluctant to pay to use Council facilities. There is no point in having them if they are not used or underused.

For instance, the year after I successfully moved in Council in 1996 to remove the museum entry fee, the attendance figures soared by over 400%. If non-rate payers feel discriminated against, they will feel even less inclined to pay a fee.

Cr Buman’s card idea does not accord with Newcastle City Council’s objective (which he supported in 2004) of a caring, compassionate community.

Keith Parsons.

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