Farmers in Ararat can rest easy tonight knowing that their voice counts for something.
A Commission of Inquiry into the Rural City of Ararat’s rating strategy has handed down 12 recommendations, for which the Victorian government has given its full support.
Key among those is that the council needs to maintain its current differential rating strategy, which charges farmers 55 per cent of the residential property rate.
It has also been recommended that Rural City of Ararat Council establish a rating strategy advisory group to assist in developing future council rating strategies.
Also, that it review the range and level of council services to the community to ensure charges are distributed equitably among ratepayers.
This is a breakthrough in council reform and a major victory for both local farmers and agricultural advocacy.
It follows a sustained campaign run by the Victorian Farmers Federation and local farmers, who have shown a tremendous level of engagement in the process of local government strategies.
It’s fair to say most were outraged at Rural City of Ararat Council’s plan to scrap its differential rating strategy in favour of a uniform system.
And it’s to their credit that they worked together – and with the Victorian Farmers Federation – to construct a cohesive case as to why the differential rating strategy should be maintained.
This has been a real community achievement. It is a sign of the outcomes we can all achieve if we work together.
The state government’s response also shows a commitment to backing local farmers and ensuring the continued viability of the Victorian agriculture sector.
Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins has ordered Rural City of Ararat Council to implement the commission’s recommendations in their entirety.
This is a great victory for farmers not just in Ararat, but across the state.
We have sent a clear message to all regional councils that the Victorian Farmers Federation will continue to put rural and regional Victoria first.
But we need the passion of our members and others in the farming community to achieve real outcomes.