SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has voted to maintain the status quo on its ratings strategy, effectively rejecting the ideas of a Rating Strategy Review Steering Committee.
It was argued by two of the committee’s members, Ralph Gallagher and Meg Knight, that farmers were set to be rewarded at the expense of other ratepayers under proposed reforms. They then wrote their own minority report to present to Council.
At Council’s June 27 meeting, Cr Maxine Kiew – who was one of the three councillors on the committee – backed the claims, saying it had been dominated by members with a pro-farming agenda.
“Our rating strategy has been quite contentious this year. The rating strategy committee was formed with six individuals from the community and three councillors,” she said.
“The process, we decided, was not completely representative of all the groups that were involved. We often hear about an equitable distribution of rates, but is it actually true?”
Cr Kiew said the process was “fraught from the beginning”.
“It was certainly dominated by the farming sector and there were a lot of self-interested participants who did not necessarily represent the interests of the wider community. I believe this process should not be repeated by Council,” she said.
But Cr Don Hill – also a member of the committee – refuted Cr Kiew’s claim, also pointing out that the committee’s proposed five per cent rate rise for commercial and 10 per cent rate rise for industrial properties was not exorbitant.
“That’s a median increase of $75 for commercial and $100 for industrial. That’s less than one cup of coffee every three weeks,” he said.