DEBATE in the community surrounding Horsham Rural City Council’s rating decision for this financial year has turned ugly – and is, at times, completely off topic.
The anger from the farming community towards the council’s decision to increase their rates by 11.8 per cent is well known.
Horsham district farmers are packing the Horsham council gallery and calling for their voices to be heard amid discussions that began formally in May when the council released its Draft Budget for comment.
They call for a fair and equitable rating strategy – and they reject the adopted Budget that means they pay more than 90 per cent of the increase in rates revenue.
The anger from farmers has also been well documented through this masthead and the channels it provides for feedback and engagement – and our team will continue to report on that fight while it continues.
What’s unfortunate is the nasty turn that some of the debate has taken.
Social media in particular can be a wonderful tool when used proactively and productively; but used inappropriately, and it can be an extremely ugly one. When people enter into arguments via their keyboard, make defamatory comments or silly threats, it’s time to walk away and refocus.
In response to the council’s farm rates decision, many people have called for a boycott of spending at businesses in Horsham.
That is simply ridiculous – and it misses the point. Businesses in Horsham don’t make decisions on council rates. That’s the role of the council.
The strength in our region is businesses – including farms – supporting each other.
Without support, those businesses won’t, and often don’t, survive.
Horsham is an important service centre for the Wimmera – including those working in the agriculture industry. Losing those services would be diabolical.
If people feel angry or frustrated, or if they’re comfortable with the rates decision – that’s their prerogative.
But channel those emotions to those who are the decision makers and who can reflect the views of our community.
The seven elected members of our community – our city councillors – need to hear your views, regardless of their nature.
Decisions that hit the hip pocket are always going to evoke emotion. But let’s keep this debate informed and respectful – and, just as importantly, keep it on topic.
Jessica Grimble, editor