Farmers in Ararat have scored a majority victory in their battle over council rates, with Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins today knocking down the Council’s plan to slug farmers with a 45 per cent rate hike.
A commission of inquiry into the Rural City of Ararat draft rating strategy, urged by the Victorian Farmers Federation, handed down 12 recommendations including that the Council:
- Maintain its current differential rating strategy, which charges farmers 55 per cent of residential property rates;
- Establish a Rating Strategy Advisory Group to assist the Council in developing its rating strategy;
- Review the range and level of Council services to the community; and
- Appoint an external interim CEO for 12 months to undertake an organisational restructure.
The outcome follows a sustained campaign run by the VFF and local farmers, who were outraged at the Council’s plan to scrap its differential rating strategy in favour of a uniform system.
VFF President David Jochinke congratulated the strong and committed voice of the Ararat community in building a cohesive case to maintain the differential rating strategy.
“This has been a real community achievement and is a sign of the outcomes we can all achieve if we work together,” he said.
“There has been a lot of anger and frustration in the Ararat community over the Council’s rating strategy, and we’re all relieved to see that we have a way forward.”
Mr Jochinke applauded the Government for backing local farmers by ordering the Council to implement the Commission’s recommendations in full.
“This has been a terrific outcome for the farmers of Ararat and shows the State Government is committed to ensuring our rural communities succeed,” he said.
“We have sent a clear message to all regional councils that the VFF will continue to put rural and regional Victoria first, but we need the passion of our members and others in the farming community to achieve real outcomes.”
As part of its campaign, the VFF earlier this month sent letters to rural and regional councils outlining the value for communities of maintaining differential rating strategies.