ANGRY Mallee farmers hope to make “national news” when they arrive at Mildura Council’s offices on Wednesday to protest a proposed 22.87 per cent hike in farm land rates.
A group is expected to travel from Ouyen in a B-double truck covered in slogans to deliver a petition with hundreds of signatures demanding Mildura Council share the increased rate burden during tonight’s ordinary council meeting.
The dramatic action received unanimous support from more than 120 people at a community meeting in Ouyen on Monday night.
The petition will call on the council to adjust the rating differentials to ensure the proposed 2.25 per cent capped rate increase is shared across all categories – residential, farming, commercial and industrial.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president David Jochinke said councillors had the power to make the change after Northern Grampians Shire Council (NGSC) backflipped over farm rates earlier this week.
The NGSC initially proposed to increase farm rates by 25.5 per cent, but councillors instead decided to spread the 2.25 per cent increase to all ratepayers in a budget adoption meeting on Monday.
“The take-home is, councillors have got the say on the final outcome of this and we have to hold them to account,” Mr Jochinke said.
“At the end of the day, they’re elected to lead.”
No Mildura councillors took up an open invitation to attend Monday night’s meeting in Ouyen, although Cr Greg Brown sent an apology.
Council spokesman Richard Sexton said councillors didn’t attend because they didn’t receive a formal invitation.
Mr Sexton said the 22.87 per cent rise in revenue collected by council was due to increases in the value of some properties in the farming zone.
“If a property’s value has increased, then it is likely the rate bill for that property will increase also,” he said.
“Every ratepayer has the right to object to their property valuation through a formal process.”
I said to one of the councillors, ‘this is like expecting the city traders in Mildura to make submissions in the week leading up to Christmas’
Ouyen grain grower and VFF member Ian Hastings said the community wasn’t given enough warning to provide submissions to the council’s draft budget because May and June was a busy time for farmers.
“I said to one of the councillors, ‘this is like expecting the city traders in Mildura to make submissions in the week leading up to Christmas’,” Mr Hastings said.
“We’re busy planting crop and worrying about that.”
VFF board member Leonard Vallance urged farmers to turn up in Deakin Avenue on Wednesday and “make the national news”.
“That sends a message to the State Parliament that they need to review the rating structure for all councils and to make sure that they operate efficiently,” he said.
Mildura Council is expected to endorse its 2018-19 draft budget during tonight’s ordinary meeting.
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