SPURRED on by the threat of backdated rates notices, some Queanbeyan small business owners are getting organised, and have recently formed the new Queanbeyan Ratepayers' and Residents' Association.
The group is aimed at overturning a string of backdated rates notices issued to Queanbeyan ratepayers in July as Queanbeyan City Council seeks to recover $3.7 million in unpaid water, sewerage and waste access charges dating back to 2009.
The group appointed an executive and committee last week, with John Bull Street art restoration business owner Kim Morris elected as president, and his neighbouring health and fitness business owner Lisa Robinson elected as vice president.
And despite a recent hold placed on the backdated notices by Queanbeyan councillors to allow Mayor Tim Overall time to seek NSW Government intervention, Ms Robinson said the Association needed to keep active and seek legal solutions to overturn the bills.
"Everyone in the community has said to me 'oh, you've had a win' [following the hold placed on invoices this month]. But we're not even vaguely off home base yet. Nothing's changed," she said.
And she said the new Ratepayer's Association couldn't put all their hope in Council's approach to the NSW Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole, to legislate away the invoices.
"It's giving with the right hand and taking with the left," she said.
"They created the problem, and then Tim [Overall] stands up and says 'we'll do everything we can to fix this mess.' Well, you created this mess in the first place, and they can't tell me they didn't know this was going to happen because they went and got legal advice [in advance]."
The Association is currently made up of around 100 members, with local lawyer Rory Markham from Boettcher Law providing the group with legal advice on how to challenge the invoices.
Close to 80 Association members filled the Council Chambers for its extraordinary meeting dealing with the matter last week making it the best attended meeting of Queanbeyan Council in recent years.
Ms Robinson said the commitment and unity of the ratepayers had been "inspiring."
"What I think is fantastic is how many people have come together over this. And this isn't actually about money, it's about the ethics of what's been done," she said.
"Australia has become incredibly politically apathetic, and this has been really good. People are standing up and saying 'No, you're not going to do this. We're not accepting this.'
"I find that a breath of fresh air."
- To contact the Queanbeyan Ratepayers' and Residents' Association, phone president Kim Morris on 6297 7670 or vice president Lisa Robinson on 6162 0683. For a membership form, write to PO Box 7002 Karabah NSW 2620.