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All ratepayers should subsidise Rundle Mall authority: councillor

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The Rundle Mall Management Authority’s remit should expand well beyond its current geographical limits and all city ratepayers – not just businesses under its jurisdiction – should foot the bill, councillor Houssam Abiad says.

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Central Ward councillor Houssam Abiad told InDaily all city businesses benefited from the semi-autonomous council subsidiary’s advocacy and it was not fair that Rundle Mall businesses had to pay extra rates.

Instead, he argued, the council should fund the Rundle Mall Management Authority from its general operating budget.

He also argued that the RMMA should be expanded to represent businesses from East Terrace to West Terrace, because Rundle Street, Rundle Mall and Hindley Street were “naturally, a one shopping destination strip”.

“We are one city, (offering) multiple experiences,” said Abiad.

“We should not just focus everything on the mall.

“Why don’t we expand their remit from East to West?”

Abiad also suggested Rundle Street and Hindley Street become one-way roads with wider footpaths to encourage pedestrians to visit businesses there, but stopped short of suggesting the streets be completely closed to traffic.

“I think there’s merit in having one-way traffic on both streets eventually, and expanded footpaths,” he said.

Abiad told a council meeting last night: “The Rundle Mall ratepayers … pay $14.3 million a year in rates, and on top of that, they pay a further $3.7 million in a separate rate for Rundle Mall.”

“If you’re operating on the southern side of Grenfell Street or on the northern side of North Terrace you don’t have to pay that – Rundle Mall’s benefit transcends that specific precinct.

“That benefit crosses North Terrace, Grenfell Street, King William Street and Pulteney Street … I find it very unfair and I think we need to look at our model.”

Abiad made the comments during a debate over his motion, which passed, instructing council staff produce a comparison of the council services provided to residents and businesses.

He noted that almost 80 per cent of council rates are paid by businesses and argued that business ratepayers should be entitled to a similar level of service as residents.

“I think businesses, especially in the last decade (have) carried an additional cost,” he said.

“Permits, encroachments, outdoor dining fees and the list keeps going and going and going.

“It’s really important that business understands what they’re getting with regards to the rates that they’re paying and the expectation that they have of the council, to provide services.”

Area councillor Anne Moran cautioned against the comparison data being used as a “Trojan horse”, although she voted for Abiad’s motion on the basis that more information was a good thing.

“It seems like he wants to take money from the residential pot and put it into the business pot,” she told InDaily this morning.

“I just have a feeling it’s a Trojan Horse.

“We shouldn’t be taking money from residents.”

Abiad rejected the accusation, but nonetheless argued that businesses, especially small businesses, were getting an unfair level of service for their rates.

“Every ratepayer in the city is entitled to an equal level of service,” he said.

“We double and triple-charge businesses.”

Most residents are entitled to rubbish collection in the CBD and North Adelaide, whereas businesses are not.

Asked whether he believed every city business should be entitled to a bin collection service, Abiad said: “I don’t know the answer to that.”

But he said businesses should be entitled to some other service of equivalent value.

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