Locals voice rates issues

Locals voice rates issues

East Gippslanders shared their views on council rates and charges as part of an independent review into Victoria’s current Local government rating system.

A community consultation session was held in Bairnsdale at the council chambers last Thursday with feedback forming the basis of the Local Government Rating System Review, an independent three-person panel which is reviewing the current system.

Panel member, John Tanner, who was previously commissioner of the Shire of Delatite, administrator for Brimbank City Council and commissioner of the inquiry into Ararat Rural City Council, led the Bairnsdale session and posed a variety of questions to the 60-strong audience.

The question, should rates be determined by property values?, drew a strong  reaction from the crowd as the majority disagreed with the current method.

“The reality is there are 523 farms in East Gippsland according to an Agriculture Victoria survey and we are paying $5 million in rates, which is an average of 10 grand per farm,” one local farmer said.

“Some farmers are paying 40 or even 60 grand. In my family there are three of us in the house at the moment so why are we paying 40 grand compared to the guy down the road who is paying a few hundred dollars?

“The fact that broad acre land is charged so heavily reveals a problem in the system. It’s okay we get a small differential. The system is just completely broken.

“The whole system needs to be thrown out and we need to start from scratch.”

Audience members also raised their issues with the rise of rates, how property values are worked out and when they are performed.

Ideas for a different rating system ranged from a tax based alternative to using the same rate across the whole state, which would then be pooled and divided fairly.

Other topics discussed included differential rates and how well they work, who pays rates and who doesn’t and how easy it is to understand the rate notice.

The review will conclude in March 2020, when the panel provides their recommendations to the Minister for Local Government.