Continuing the push for rate relief

Continuing the push for rate relief

Lobbying for farm rate relief remains a priority for East Gippsland Shire Council mayor, Cr Natalie O’Connell.

In the past week the mayor has again pleaded the case of the region’s drought-stricken farmers in meetings with the Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, and the office of Premier, Daniel Andrews.

“Again, I requested a rate subsidy from the Victorian Government because our farmers need help. Council needs the government to provide the rate assistance as providing a subsidy from within our own budget is something we cannot absorb without impacts to services, maintenance and infrastructure,” Cr O’Connell said.

“For several months, the Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, and I, have had fortnightly contact to discuss the drought situation and potential further assistance.

“Our farmers need to know if the state is going to provide rate relief so they can plan and further prepare for this continuing drought.”

Cr O’Connell said she was well aware there has been considerable public discussion since the release of Council’s 2019/20 Draft Budget a fortnight ago critical that it did not propose enough support for East Gippsland farmers.

“As a result, councillors indicated we may revisit the Draft Budget prior to the public submissions formally closing,” Cr O’Connell said.

Cr O’Connell said the proposed rise in farm rate revenue could be attributed to a  combination of factors, including farm land valuations increasing.

“Land valuations are conducted annually by independent contractors working for the Valuer-General Victoria and council has no formal means to appeal. However, our officers have certainly asked for clarification on how and why farm land valuations could increase during a prolonged drought,” Cr O’Connell said.

“There are many elements that go into making up a rate valuation notice, such as land valuations, the rate on Capital Improved Value, the municipal charge and other fees and charges. However, we understand the majority of ratepayers are only interested in the bottom line – what they must pay.”

The mayor said it was also important to remember the flow-on impacts of drought to farm related businesses reliant on the agriculture sector for their turnover, and how the ‘tightening of the belt’ often means less activity in the commercial and retail sectors.