SHELLHARBOUR residents have been urged to make their voices heard on proposed significant rate hikes while they still have the opportunity.
They have also been encouraged to take a greater interest in council business.
Barrack Point's Harry Gooden and Shellharbour's Paul Hockey, both regular council meeting attendees and former members of the defunct Shellharbour Ratepayers Association, oppose the proposed increases.
At its February 26 meeting, council put its Draft Delivery Program 2013-2017 on public exhibition.
This includes the council's controversial decision to seek a rates increase above the 3.4 per cent pegging limit.
The majority of councillors endorsed the rates rise to pay for renewal of roads, footpaths and community facilities in the local government area.
The application is for rates to increase by 8.4 per cent in 2013/14, nine per cent in 2014/15, 10 per cent in 2015/16 and 10 per cent in 2016/17.
Mr Gooden said a recent Illawarra Regional Information Service survey didn't reflect residents' true feelings.
The report said more than 60 per cent of the 1000 poll participants would support an increase above the peg limit.
Mr Gooden and Mr Hockey participated in the survey.
"Every person I have spoken to is very worried about the rates," Mr Gooden said.
"People think it is far too much . . . Look around at the golf course losing money, the hockey club debt written off, the city hub.
"The equipment has to be brought up to scratch . . . But how did it get to this stage?
"People need to get organised and do something."
Mr Gooden and Mr Hockey said while many residents seemed apathetic to council business, they needed to research the effect rate hikes would have on them and make their voices heard. "Some people, some with young families, can't make it to meetings, but they need to get out there and find out," Mr Hockey said.
Mayor Marianne Saliba said it had been a difficult but necessary decision for council to ensure residents had access to facilities of a high standard.
"We are in a position of needing to spend $18 million during the next four years and $8 million each year after that to bring our infrastructure up to the recommended standard of the Department of Local Government," Cr Saliba said.
"Council is at the forefront of matters relating to the community and we want to see our residents receive the best possible value for their money."
The program will be on public exhibition until April 2, then passed to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
The recommendation of IPART and the community will form the basis for council's decision to be made in June.