Farm rates must be changed

By Jamie Salter

Farmers seeing their rates rise every year say something must be done to even the playing field.

Timmering mixed farmer Murray McDonald has been on his property since 1926 and has seen his rates increase by 10 per cent in 2019 and 12 per cent in 2018.

Mr McDonald said his family would have to pay $8000 from four rate notices this year.

“The Victorian Government shifted valuation from every two years to every one year, so now you get a nasty shock annually,” Mr McDonald said.

“The Campaspe Shire council's 10 per cent concession is valuable to the communities, but with increasing land values, we're still at a disadvantage.

“Shire ratings don't take into account drought or other factors.

“Government and local councillors either don't understand farming or don't want to understand.”

He said the approaching October council elections could put more emphasis on farm rates if farmers were able to voice their concerns.

Mr McDonald was the Campaspe Shire mayor in 2004 and said councils today had little knowledge of the entire shire.

“I've been a mayor and I had formed relationships with the entire community, but now the system has become paper driven and there's more restrictions on council,” Mr McDonald said.

Rochester fourth-generation mixed farmer Tim Watson also said his rates increased this year, rising by 6.5 per cent.

“There seems to be an increasing burden on a decreasing number of people, as there are less and less farmers out there,” Mr Watson said.

“It's a cost you get nothing extra for, the value of land has driven the increase, but that's why they need to revisit the rates differential between residential and agriculture to make it more even.”

Mr Watson's farm enterprise will have to pay more than $20,000 in rates this year.

Campaspe Shire Council general manager corporate Fleur Cousins said in the case of Mr McDonald, the property value would have increased, reflecting a greater than two per cent rise in rates.

“In setting the budget for the 2020/21 financial year, council adhered to the Victorian Government’s rate cap, increasing the rate revenue stream by two per cent,” Ms Cousins said.

“Council uses a differential rating structure, with the farm rate set at 90 per cent of the general rate, again set through the budget process.

“In some areas across our shire, both residential and farming property values have gone up and in some areas they have gone down.”

She said if ratepayers disagreed with the valuation, the Campaspe Shire Council website outlined how to object to the valuation by September 21.

“If the ratepayer is experiencing financial difficulties, our website also outlines how to apply for assistance.”