The VFF supports the Fair Go Rates system for ratepayer transparency and confidence into the local council rating system.

Recently in Victoria, some rural councils have considered removing the differential rating system in favour of a uniform rate across all properties – be it residential property, commercial, industrial or farmland. 

The purpose of a differential rating system is to rate some categories using a higher or lower rate in the dollar. Farmland traditionally has been rated using a differential rate system, on a lower rate in the dollar. 

The differential rating strategy exists to address inequalities in the land valuation method of determining rates to achieve greater equity or efficiency across ratepayers. Changes to a rating differential have a direct impact on the business operations of farms and the community. The VFF believes as part of good governance, the council is under an obligation to explain that rates are fair and equitable. This must be supported through data and objective research. 

Farming is the only occupation dependant on a land asset base for earning an income. In reality, rating redistribution is a tax on businesses in the region and impacts families. 

Victoria’s farmers are personally and financially invested in the long term wellbeing of their region. The VFF has never supported capital improved valve (CIV) based rates as a panacea for funding local government however we support a fair and equitable contribution to local government as members of their communities. 

Where a differential is lessened or removed then funds are also directly appropriated out of the local economy. This is inevitably to the detriment of the local farming suppliers and service providers and to the farming business itself. 
Case Study

In May 2017, the Ararat Rural City Council voted to abolish differential rating in favour of a uniform rate across all properties. Until now, farmland in this region has been rated using a differential rate system, based on a lower rate in the dollar. 

Local leaders in the Ararat farming community rallied together to lobby the Council to amend this decision. The action group sought the assistance of the VFF.

The VFF undertook the following core actions: 

  • Take Action Locally – this online campaign harnessed the local community to send submissions to the council.  The Council received over 600 submission and one hundred and eight nine submissions came through the VFF sponsored Australian Farmers website
  • Local meetings where hosted by the VFF to develop a common voice and key messaging on the issue. A community group representing farmers took the lead voice
  • Media – the VFF created the media attention to bring the rating issue and council governance to the broader community, including creating a social media community of 55 000 people (Facebook and twitter)
  • Ministerial meetings to lobby government for a more fair and equitable rating system where held in partnership with the Ararat community group
  • Support for A Commission of Inquiry into the Rural City of Ararat’s rating strategy
  • Submission and representation into the Inquiry including an appearance before the Commission.

The rating issues in the Ararat Rural City region continue, with an Inquiry outcome and recommendation due in early August. Whilst other local government areas consider their best approach to provide the services to their communities, the VFF will continue to support the Fair Go Rates system.

Members can log in here to take action locally.