Cropping

Dookie crop farmer welcomes review into council rates

By Sophie Baldwin

An independent panel will give Victorians a chance to voice their opinions on local council rates and charges and how they are applied.

The three-person panel will head up the Local Government Rating System Review and the trio expects to share its findings with the Local Government Minister by March 2020.

The panel is chaired by former Melbourne City Council chief executive officer Kathy Alexander, former Essential Services Commission chair Ron Ben-David and former Brimbank City Council administrator John Tanner.

‘‘This is the first time in a long time that Victoria’s rating system has been reviewed in its entirety, and it’s about giving ratepayers, councils and the wider community a rating system that is measured, fair and equitable,’’ Dr Alexander said.

The review has been welcomed by Dookie crop farmer Steve Ludeman.

His City of Greater Shepparton rates cost an additional $12000 last year with the rates for some of his farm blocks increasing by 50 per cent.

Overall his rates increased by 33 per cent.

‘‘We sat down with the councillors and the mayor last year and no-one could give us an explanation, they just pleaded ignorance and said their hands were tied,’’ Mr Ludeman said.

He said he wasn’t debating a rate increase but rather the equation used.

‘‘It all just fell on deaf ears so it will be interesting to see what this review can do. Our rating system is 60 to 80 years old and it is not just the farmers getting smashed, it’s industrial and commercial too.

‘‘We don’t mind a small increase but 33 per cent in one year is just a bit unfair,’’ he said.

Dr Alexander said the panel would be consulting with communities, councils, peak bodies and key stakeholders about how rates and charges were applied.

‘‘Our focus will be on identifying areas where the current rating system can be improved, and what changes can be made to how these charges are imposed on ratepayers moving forward.

‘‘The feedback we receive from this review will inform future decision-making and establish what the priorities should be for how rates and charges are applied in the future.’’

■To provide feedback, visit: www.engage.vic.gov.au/rating-review