PORT Stephens Council is one of two biggest losers after the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal rejected its plan to slug ratepayers with a "considerable" rate hike over the next seven years.
The council hadn't made its case, the IPART said on Monday.
Eight other NSW councils, including Muswellbrook, had made the case for rate increases and another three, including Dungog, had made enough of a case to get much of their proposed increases through.
Port Stephens Council failed, and if it was serious about serving its community it would closely consider the tribunal's reasons because it's what people have been saying for years.
The council obviously believed it had provided enough information to justify raising rates by 65.9 per cent over seven years. The tribunal demolished that. The council had "only partly demonstrated a financial need" for the rate hike and the extra funds were "not needed" to meet the council's stated goals, including paying for an infrastructure backlog, the tribunal found.
Which leaves the community asking why the council pushed so hard for the extra money.
And there's the real problem for Port Stephens Council.
The tribunal considered about 680 mostly negative submissions from the community about the rate hike and the council's operations in general. Many of those submissions complained about the council's lack of transparency and public accountability.
No doubt many of those people had high hopes for a new group of elected representatives after years of a very polarised council, where the perception was that personal and political disputes were dominating rather than working for the public good.
No doubt many felt disappointed, and even betrayed, when the new council appeared to adopt the old council's bad habit of making decisions behind closed doors and discounting community concerns.
The independent pricing tribunal has looked at the council case dispassionately and objectively, listened to what community members had to say, and found the council wanting.
Rather than telling ratepayers which projects it won't now be funding, the council needs to account for where it's gone wrong.