Upper Lachlan Shire Council has stopped its bid to increase rates, following a community backlash.
The council issued a statement on Sunday, November 5 that community consultation sessions held over the past week had 'clearly shown' that people didn't support the proposed increase.
"(The council) ran six engagement sessions for the community and have heard clearly what many ratepayers had to say," Mayor Pam Kensit said.
"As we live in a democracy, we as the community representatives have heeded the people and will not be going ahead with the proposed Special Rate Variation. Essentially the community has spoken and we have listened, with a majority of councillors agreeing to end the process now."
The Crookwell Gazette has sought comment on whether a council meeting was held to decide the matter. Under NSW Local Government legislation, extraordinary meetings are required to be advertised.
Upper Lachlan had proposed to hike rates by 63 per cent over three years under one scenario. It would have meant a 55 per cent rise in year one. A second option suggested splitting the 63pc increase over three years, with 35pc in year one.
But many residents loudly voiced their opposition at heated consultation meetings at Taralga, Crookwell and Gunning on Thursday, November 2. The Crookwell meeting was aborted after a short time. Cr Kensit said the forum "got out of hand" when the venue couldn't hold numbers and the public address system and lighting failed. She told The Gazette that some residents yelled at staff and councillors and loudly denounced an acknowledgement of country.
The council's CEO, Alex Waldron said the consultation had been stressful for staff, councillors and the community, "who all live and work in the Shire." However the session were a "necessary step in the process."
"Upper Lachlan Shire Council has many hardworking staff and councillors who should be respected for going above and beyond for their community rather than being vilified for being part of a process aimed at improving the Shire," she said in a statement.
Cr Kensit said it was now clear that ratepayers would rather see services reviewed and greater efficiencies within the organisation.
The decision followed consultant, AEC Group's report which found a rate rise was necessary to ensure the council's long-term financial sustainability.
On Thursday, Ms Waldron said the council did not have sufficient cash reserves and "at least" 35pc more income was required in the next financial year.
The decision to stop the process has met mixed response. Many took to social meeting applauding the call and criticising the consultation process.
Gunning man, Simon Peirce, had an alternative view.
"It's nuanced. The fact is that the cost of doing business for councils has increased," he said.
"Materials, fuel and other items have risen exponentially and the money has to come from somewhere. Upper Lachlan has a very limited ratepayer base so it comes down to getting more money from the state or federal governments, preferably both, from ratepayers or cutting services."
He pointed out the Shire had to maintain 7000km of roads, was "the size of the ACT," and had 8500 ratepayers. Mr Peirce acknowledged it was a "tough call" to raise rates when wages hadn't kept pace with inflation.
However Mr Peirce decried what he described as "appalling behaviour of people at the Crookwell meeting." He said some attendees had "shouted down staff and councillors" and booed when Cr Kensit started an acknowledgement of country.
The mayor verified this on Friday.
At Gunning, a man yelled that the community had "voted against all that," when Cr Kensit recited the acknowledgement.
"It emboldened people to be racist," Mr Peirce said.
Now, the council will not apply to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal for the rate rise.
Future engagement sessions, including a re-scheduled one in Crookwell on Wednesday, November 8, have been cancelled.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.