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Farmers forgotten in 'Fair Go' rates overhaul

FARMERS across Victoria could be in for a rude awakening when they open their rates notices and see their rates balloon by more than seven per cent.

Quite simply, we need a rethink of the current rating system, and we can start with the State Government abandoning rates on farm land altogether. It has always been the VFF’s view that land that is used for farm production should not be rateable.

Under the current system, too much of the rates burden is being shouldered by farmers and it can’t continue. We need some drastic changes to make the method of calculating rates fairer.

The main problem is that the price of rates is currently tied to the value of land. In many cases, the value placed on the property has little to do with the agricultural productivity of the land, but more to do with proximity to Melbourne or a regional centre, or amenity values.

Added to this is the separate but contributing issue surrounding council funding. Rural and regional local governments are increasingly taking on greater responsibilities but don’t have all the necessary funding, so they are turning to ratepayers to bridge the gap.

The VFF has outlined our plan to fix the rates problem in a submission we put to parliament:

  • Land used for farm production should not be rateable
  • The use of a municipal charge should be a requirement for all rural and regional councils, with a minimum of 20% of council revenue to be recovered through this charge
  • Local governments must implement farm rate differentials for farm land
  • The cap on rates needs to be amended ; and should be applied at the rating category level (general, farm, industrial etc), rather than to the councils total rating pool

We need to ensure the system changes and farmers aren’t disadvantaged with steep increases to their rates.

After all, the Government is keen to promote its “Fair Go Rates” system, but a lot of farmers are having trouble seeing the fair side of it.

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