Ararat district farmers have won a last-minute reprieve in their battle against a Council plan to force a 45 per cent rate hike after local councillors tonight voted to defer a decision on whether to scrap the differential rating strategy.
The vote comes after Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins last week announced the State Government would conduct an inquiry into the Council’s governance, which is due to report back by August 1.
Under the new rates plan, Farmers would collectively pay nearly $2.5 million more per year in council rates, while residents, commercial enterprises and industrial businesses would all get a tax cut.
“Ararat has a thriving farm sector which is one of the key economic drivers of the community, and the Council risks bankrupting the local industry if it pursues this rates plan,” Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said.
“There has been a huge amount of frustration and outrage in the community. Farmers have made it clear the proposed strategy is unacceptable and it’s up to the Council to offer an alternative solution.”
"The Council needs to step up, take its civic responsibility seriously, and reject this proposal once and for all to give farmers security" he said.
Ararat Council first floated the idea of abolishing farm differential rates in April, blindsiding the community.
Local Farmers have waged a campaign against the proposal, with the Council receiving close to 600 submissions opposing the strategy.
Mr Jochinke said the Council owed farmers a responsibility to ensure local primary producers wouldn’t face additional economic stress because of the 2017/18 budget.
“Ararat is home to 1,700 Farmers and they rely on their local councillors to make decisions in their best interest,” he said.
“It is impossible for Farmers to pass on increases, which is something Council has recognised in the past. The Council needs to step up, take its civic responsibility seriously, and reject this proposal once and for all to give Farmers security about their finances.”