VFF wants a rate moratorium

By Country News

Council rates are becoming a key election battle ground, with the VFF demanding a moratorium on future rate increases until the ratings system can be demolished and rebuilt.

The moves comes as the body hosted a number of rural and regional MPs in Melbourne last week marking the final sitting week of State Parliament.

Rates have been a hot topic recently, with a group of farmers from the City of Greater Shepparton voicing their frustration at a meeting with Liberal candidate for Shepparton Cheryl Hammer and Local Government Shadow Minister David Morris earlier this month.

The farmers have seen red at their recent Greater Shepparton City Council rates notices, which have seen significant jumps as a result of rising farm values despite rate capping.

Rate capping, which was introduced in 2016, ensures Victorian councils cannot increase their total revenue received through rates by more than 2.25 per cent for the current financial year.

But VFF president David Jochinke said the VFF was continuing to receive reports of annual rate increases exceeding 40 per cent for some farmers.

‘‘Enough is enough,’’ he said.

‘‘It is difficult to think of any small or large business that could remain viable in the face of 20 to 40 per cent hikes to such a significant fixed cost each year.

‘‘Compounding this, the challenges of drought and difficult seasonal conditions facing many farmers are making the significant increases even harder to absorb.’’

Labelling the rates system ‘‘completely broken’’, Mr Jochinke encouraged farmers with concerns regarding their rates bill to contest their valuation with councils.

‘‘While many of these rate increases on their own are unsustainable, there is also the question of value,’’ he said.

‘‘As farmers continue receiving excessive rates notices, they are rightfully questioning the levels of service they receive, with poorly maintained roads, roadside vegetation and inadequate drainage among the most common complaints.

‘‘This sort of thing just wouldn’t fly in the city.’’