Infrastructure problems require joint ratepayer, council efforts

Homeowners and local government should co-operate in addressing urban infrastructure deterioration in the country’s major metropoles, suggests a leading property expert.

Gerhard Kotzé, CEO of the ERA South Africa property group, says a

co-operative approach of this nature would be far preferable to confrontation between ratepayers, municipalities and provincial authorities over maintenance and expansion of roads, parks, security services and other aspects of urban and community living.

The basic idea is that via existing structures such as ratepayers’ associations, technical and other assistance could be provided to municipalities who are hard-pressed to deliver services.

“In fact the first signs of this approach have started to appear, notably in terms of the Hartbeestpoort dam area which is beset by poor water treatment problems.

“In simplistic terms, such assistance could involve, for instance, the likes of engineering, construction and project management expertise, typically provided by expert individuals or companies from within the community - and in return, ratepayers would be entitled to certain rebates.”

He says there’s no denying that many, although not all municipalities, are beset with “lack of capacity” on many different fronts of local government management and that a co-operative approach could solve many of these problems in the interests of all stakeholders, rather than have a stand-off between the various camps while services continue to deteriorate.

“Potentially we could then have a win-win scenario where the municipalities would enjoy the benefits of knowledge transfer and improving capacity while ratepayers would get what they want and pay for, in terms of well maintained infrastructure and well managed municipal offices.

“All this would help to sustain and expand service delivery down the line, the rates ‘pool’ would grow in areas that become sought-after by homebuyers and businesses and their management costs would be reduced if they did not have to employ formal, expensive, outsourced consultants.

“Ratepayers on the other hand would see improved values, enhanced quality of life, greater service delivery efficiencies and rates containment.”

Kotzé says strong leadership would obviously be needed and care would have to be taken to avoid creating structures that are too ponderous or open to abuse. “Individual solutions would have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis, and I am not so naïve as to believe that it would be all plain sailing to embark on this kind of approach. However it’s eminently preferable to the alternative which is not in anyone’s interest.”

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