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14 July 2021
The entire July 14, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
By DEAN LAWSON
Wimmera farmers believe a ‘tardy’ State Government approach to supplying land valuations for municipal rates analysis is ‘seriously’ hindering a scrutinisation process.
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Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera branch president Graeme Maher said the state was giving councils and their communities too little time to absorb and work with valuations within timelines.
“The State Government took the valuation process and associated costs from local councils but it is getting later and later in supplying these valuations needed for budgeting,” he said.
“This puts everyone under pressure and there is ultimately less time for adequate public consultation and scrutiny.
“If valuations supposed to be in for the first week of May come in the last week of May, that puts everyone behind and we’re left with a very short length of time to get an appropriate level of community consultation.
“The State Government is getting tardier and tardier and it must make drawing up a council budget near on impossible.”
Mr Maher was commenting after a branch meeting at Warracknabeal where discussion centred on latest municipal rate charges across the region as well as other issues.
He said Horsham Rural City Council’s rates strategy probably generated the most anxiety among members.
“Northern Grampians and Yarriambiack shires also had rates increases but members acknowledged what they believed was a sense of understanding,” Mr Maher said.
“What’s frustrating is that rate increases are seemingly often caused by things out of farmers’ control.
“Horsham district farmers are particularly angry, paying for a 10 percent rates increase.
“They are angry with the rating system, believe it is flawed and see the Horsham council divided on the issue.
“I’m at a loss as to where it might end and what will happen down the track is what further worries me. What will the valuations show next year? The same scenario will emerge again, and we’ll be fighting this fight again. We must work with all stakeholders to come up with a better system.”
Mr Maher said the State Government needed to take more responsibility in shaping the rates system.
“People on the ground are victims for something that starts well above their heads,” he said.
“The first step needed is for the government to get its house in order to allow greater time for public scrutiny of budget planning and processes.
“To ask councils to prepare budgets based on valuations that might come in a week before budgets are due for example, is not only unrealistic but irresponsible. It curtails adequate discussion and process.
“It’s okay to argue about or advocate for something but not when the horse has already bolted. It stems from a high degree of tardiness operating from above.”