A GROUP of Wimmera farmers have asked Horsham Rural City Council to give them a fair go, following council’s decision to raise rates for farming properties.
In its draft 2018-19 Budget, council rose all average rates to the capped increase of 2.25 per cent. However, residential rates were actually decreased by 0.6 per cent, while farm rate increased by 11.8 per cent.
McKenzie Creek farmer Neville McIntyre, Dadswells Bridge farmer Peter Jackman, and Kalkee farmers Allan Mills and Tom Blair have written submissions to council following the rate rise.
Mr Mills said the rate rise was unfair. “The thing is that you can’t build anymore farmland in the region because it’s already all sold,” he said.
“If they said that no more houses could be built in Horsham, then house prices would go sky high, and that’s exactly what’s happened to farmland.
“That 2.25 per cent rate cap should be on every sector. Why should the farming community have to take on the burden?”
He said his rates were estimated to rise from $10,000 to $14,000 at one of his family’s properties, while rates will rise from $3470 to $5850 at another.
“All up, we’re expecting a rate rise of about $9000,” he said.
Mr Blair said Wimmera farming land was a competitive market.
“We have to look into buying land from our neighbours to keep our farms viable,” he said.
“Prices are incredibly inflated due to the high demand.
“Farmers should be given a fair go and that’s not what we’re getting at the moment.”
The men agreed that it was unfair that farmers had to bare the brunt of the rate increase, while residential ratepayers received a discount.
Mr McIntyre said it would be a tough year ahead for Wimmera farmers.
“We’re going into a dry season and most likely coming into a drought this year,” he said.
“Never before have council even considered giving the residential sector a deficit, let a lone a one million one.
“Then they turn around and expect farmers to pay more than half a million to pay for this deficit.
“The (farm rate) differential has to be increased to 40 per cent to compensate for the 2016 and 2018 valuations.”
Mr Jackman suggested that, in order for farmers to get a fair go, the valuation system needed an overhaul.
“There needs to be another system,” he said.
“We’re quite happy to pay our share, but it shouldn’t be just on us. My land was recently valuated and the value has gone up.
Farmers should be given a fair go and that’s not what we’re getting at the moment.Kalkee farmer Tom Blair
“But just because your land value has increased a bit, it doesn’t mean your income it going up.”
People have until Tuesday, 5pm to make a submission to council’s draft Budget.
Horsham Rural City Council was asked for comment, but didn’t provide a response before deadline.