Ararat farmers get rate rise reprieve as councillors back down

Sheep Central June 28, 2017

ARARAT district farmers won a last-minute reprieve in their battle against a council plan to dump differential rates when local councillors last night voted to defer a decision on the controversial rating strategy.

The Victorian Farmers Federation said the proposed uniform rate plan would have forced a 45 percent rate hike onto farmers.

The decision by Rural City of Ararat councillors came after Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins last week announced the State Government would conduct an inquiry into the council’s governance by August 1.

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Under the new rates plan, farmers would collectively pay nearly $2.5 million more per year in council rates, while residents, commercial enterprises and industrial businesses would all get a tax cut, the VFF said.

“Ararat has a thriving farm sector which is one of the key economic drivers of the community, and the council risks bankrupting the local industry if it pursues this rates plan,” VFF president David Jochinke said.

“There has been a huge amount of frustration and outrage in the community.

“Farmers have made it clear the proposed strategy is unacceptable and it’s up to the council to offer an alternative solution.”

The Ararat council first floated the idea of abolishing farm differential rates in April, blindsiding the community, the VFF said.

Local farmers have waged a campaign against the proposal, with the council receiving almost 600 submissions opposing the strategy.

Mr Jochinke said the council owed farmers a responsibility to ensure local primary producers wouldn’t face additional economic stress because of the 2017/18 budget.

“Ararat is home to 1700 farmers and they rely on their local councillors to make decisions in their best interest,” he said.

“It is impossible for farmers to pass on increases, which is something council has recognised in the past,” Mr Jochinke said.

“The council needs to step up, take its civic responsibility seriously, and reject this proposal once and for all to give farmers security about their finances.”

Source: VFF.


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  1. Craig Hinchliffe, June 28, 2017

    The Ararat Rural City Council (ARCC) rating strategy discussion on 27 June 2017 confirmed in the minds of many observers witnessing this spectacle that the council lacks the requisite analytical and management capacity to reign in expenditure and develop budget plans that reflect the realities of rural economic decline across the municipality.
    The recently announced Commission of Inquiry is an appropriate and timely intervention by State Government and is general recognition that the causes of rural economic decline and social disadvantage cannot be improved by substantially increasing the municipal (CIV) property tax burden on that same community.
    While the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Commission of Inquiry are yet to be released formally, the pressing need to review council governance practices and management capacity should not distract from the larger strategic issues at play; namely the leadership role required by the Minister for Local Level Government to clearly delineate and reinforce the administration and service delivery responsibilities of Local Councils.
    The organisational apparatus of local councils, guided by the LLG Act, never envisaged roles, responsibilities or funding requirements beyond the co-ordination and delivery of basic municipal services. If the practice of positioning councils as ‘shop fronts’ for services or programs funded by other tiers of covernment is to continue, then the Commission of Inquiry needs to examine whether the full costs implications are being identified and transferred appropriately. Fundamental to any assessment of the management capacity of Ararat council is to review and analyse whether (CIV) property tax revenue is being expended on activities beyond the remit of local council mandate.
    In summary, the issue requiring most scrutiny is whether the Commission of Inquiry acknowledges that the rural economic decline experienced across rural municipalities, like Ararat, cannot be reversed through continuously increasing the CIV property tax liabilities of farming families, local businesses and community residents. Councils have an important but deliberately narrow mandate to fulfil and its seems that on this occasion, the Commission of Inquiry and minister need to remind them to ‘stick to their knitting’.

  2. Robin Steen, June 28, 2017

    Great result for all concerned against beauracracy gone mad! When will the public service return to that, rather than be a public hindrance. They should realise that we the public pay them and they are there to serve and help us. People power — there should be more of it.

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