Rural Rates: Fight for Fair

Rates are a major issue for farmers. We at the VFF strongly support farmers’ rights to differential rates relief under the current ratings system and supports mandatory rates relief on all farmland.

The VFF firmly believes a differential rate should be applied to all Victorian farmland. When applying differential rates, consideration must be given to the economic output of the agricultural industry in the local government area.

It is established VFF policy that:

Rating relief on farmland should be mandatory and rates should only apply to house and curtilage (the area of land attached to a house and forming one enclosure with it) 
Differential rates relief is mandatory for farmers
A Fair Go Rates Cap is essential, including a cap on individual categories of rates.

It is not enough for Councils to state they consider rates to be ‘fair and equitable.’ The VFF believes Councils must justify their policy to their voters.

Differential rating strategy exists to address inequalities in the land valuation method of determining rates. Changes to a rating differential have a direct impact on the business operations of farms and the community. 

The vast majority of rural shires in Victoria formally recognise the appropriate use of a differential as part of their ratings strategy. 

It is impossible for farmers to pass on rate increases commercially. This means that rates operate more like a fixed cost on business than a land tax.  

Rate increases must reflect the spirit and intent of the State Government’s policy of a Fair Go Rates Cap for all.

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

This is not an issue about urban and rural rates. All rate payers are at risk when Councils target a specific section of their revenue base and increase rates by redistributing the revenue sources.

Recent Events

In May 2017, the Ararat Rural City Council voted to abolish differential rating in favour of a uniform rate across all properties – be it residential property, commercial and industrial or farmland. Until now, farmland in this region has been rated using a differential rate system, which is based on a lower rate in the dollar.

The purpose of differential rates is to achieve greater equity or efficiency across ratepayers. 

Local leaders in the Ararat farming community have rallied together to lobby the Council to amend this decision. 

The VFF is providing support to the rural community of Ararat  and have developed an action plan for all rural rate payers.

Take action locally

1.  Phone your local Councillor 
2.  Write to the Council – see supporting material below for suggested wording
3.  Support others in the community who are preparing formal submissions
4.  Write to your local State Government MP 
5.  Attend local public meetings that address the issue of rates 
6.  Keep in touch with us – contact us at members@vff.org.au and let us know if there are any rate related issues in your area
7. Sign the Oz Farmers petition here and share with your community.


Tips for a Powerful Submission

Submissions to local government need to be clear and concise. 

Begin with a statement of the priority issue. Follow this statement with a demonstration of how this issue affects your business and your household.  Use dot points to provide clarity. Support claims with facts and figures and avoid generalisations.

If possible provide a solution or recommended course of action.

Ensure you include your name, business and contact details. 

Most submissions can be emailed. Check relevant websites for details.

Advocacy and Research Papers

The VFF has undertaken a number of advocacy positions and developed papers on the inequity of rural rates. Two recent papers are:

VFF inquiry into sustainability of rural and regional councils
VFF policy position on inequities in rural rates

Supporting Materials

The following materials have been developed to assist rural residents respond to a uniform rate system  – these materials were specifically developed for the rural residents of Ararat however can be adapted for other regions.