Queanbeyan residents who have been slugged with unexpected backdated rates bills came face-to-face with their mayor for the first time at a heated meeting on Thursday night.
Mayor Tim Overall and local MP John Barilaro addressed the 100-strong crowd, many of whom said they were facing bills for backdated rates totalling at least $5000.
Both men held question and answers sessions with the mayor, in particular, being interrupted often by angry questioners..
"We paid everything you asked us to pay on time, we did what we were supposed to do ... you will put people out of business with this," one resident yelled at Mr Overall.
Mr Overall apologised to the group on behalf of the council and said it was a difficult situation, adding that some council staff members had been threatened.
"First of all I have to say as mayor, I have to issue an apology to you all that this situation has arisen through misadministration on the part of the council. It's a very difficult situation for everybody," he said.
He said there would be a workshop of councillors and senior staff next Wednesday to look at the options the council might be able to take.
Mr Barilaro told the crowd there could be an option for the state government to intervene and scrub the rate notices if the council appealed to the NSW parliament. But he cautioned it could take a couple of months to work out..
"First of all I have to say as mayor, I have to issue an apology to you all that this situation has arisen through misadministration on the part of the council. It's a very difficult situation for everybody."
"The council did not have to pursue it in the first place. Because they chose to pursue it and issued rate notices, the act doesn't actually allow for rate notices to be withdrawn. End of story," Mr Barilaro said.
"There are a number of clauses that allow rate notices or debts to be written off but looking at the way the council has managed this, I don't think any of those clauses will allow council to do that. So it's a bloody mess."
After the heated session, the group voted to wait and see what council put together at the private meeting next Wednesday.
Queanbeyan resident Darren Bailey, who attended the meeting and is facing backdated rates totalling $15,000, said he was only just breaking even before the notice was issued. Now he didn't know what he would do.
He said he had six children to support, two mortgages and was the only income earner in his family.
"I lease out [my building] which only just covers the mortgages and the insurance and that's it. I wasn't able to secure a decent rent for it because of the way the economy is, the economy's bad," he said.
"I've just spent the past three years trying to rebuild my life, get back some of what I had. I was able to keep this property, just. I went through three years of very bad financial hardship, only just started to get back on top of that now. Then we get this and it just puts me back into that position again."
Source: Canberra Times