Member for Mildura Jade Benham is warning northwest Victoria’s agricultural producers might be the test case for a new cash grab by local shires across regional and rural areas.
Ms Benham says a Mildura Rural City Council proposal now in front of its ratepayers could see those producers facing hikes of more than 13 per cent.
And that, she says, is a charge per property.
“When you consider many producers have multiple properties within their portfolios, that means a 13.1 per cent rise – which equates to an average $463 and really starts adding up fast,” Ms Benham says.
“The Victorian Farmers Federation estimate the average farmer could be coughing up an extra $1800 in rates if this goes through and that could then flow through to dearer produce prices.
“Mildura Rural City Council is floating some fancy tapdancing with the figures.
“And is now asking its ratepayers to vote on who gets to foot the bill – and how do we think that’s going to pan out when far and away the majority of those who get a say live in the city?
“Do they vote to cost themselves money or do they vote to pass it on to someone else? I think we would all be better off getting to the core of the problem and finding a better way to make sure the costs are fair for everyone?”
Ms Benham says one of the things driving shires to find more revenue must be the way the Andrews Labor government has continued to seriously short-change regional Victoria.
She says regional Victoria is home to 25 per cent of all Victorians, yet only averages 12 per cent of the state’s funding.
“And that’s when you also bear in mind capital spending in Melbourne also included the $28 billion in cost overruns on those major projects there – $28 billion,” she said.
“If you took just the cost overruns on capital projects in Melbourne, they would effectively fix nearly every country road that needs it.
“We know regional Victoria is being ripped off to that extent, we have had the independent Parliamentary Budget Office go through the two previous budgets for what capital spend there was in regional Victoria versus the city and got 11 per cent and 13 per cent of the capital spend.
“Then this same government has the gall to cap spending for shires.”
Mildura mayor Liam Wood says council’s proposal isn’t about changing how much funding is generated through rates … it’s about potentially changing how the ‘rating pie’ is divided up across the different property types.
Cr Wood says the community has been asked to consider two options:
- Leaving differential rates unchanged.
- Reducing residential property rate by 4.5 per cent while increasing business and farming differential rates by 3.5 per cent and 13.1 per cent respectively.
“The Sunraysia is the heart of Victoria’s food bowl and this is hardly a good time to be adding to its bottom line,” Ms Benham added.