RATES DEBATE: Peter McLennan of Canegrowers Isis, Joe Lyons of BFVG, Agforce's Tom Marland and Dean Cayley of Bundaberg Canegrowers.
RATES DEBATE: Peter McLennan of Canegrowers Isis, Joe Lyons of BFVG, Agforce's Tom Marland and Dean Cayley of Bundaberg Canegrowers.

‘Not a prophet’: Farmer’s propose rates motion to council

Bundaberg farmers have met with Bundaberg Regional Council's councillors, proposing a motion for the current rate rises debate.

The farming consortium, with representatives from Agforce, Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers (BFVG), Bundaberg Canegrowers and Canegrowers Isis, have been lobbying for months against the Category 9 rate rises, and now they are calling for all ratepayers' increase to be capped at the Consumer Price Index.

Agforce's Tom Marland said a COVID-related regulation had now been put in place at State level that enabled any council in Queensland to rescind and recast the 2020 budget.

"We would hope that our councillors will take our suggested motion to the December meeting and follow through on this opportunity," he said.

The motion the consortium has put forward reads:

That Bundaberg Regional Council (BRC) rescind the motion that passed the 2020 Budget and recast the Budget so that ALL ratepayers do not receive a rates increase any greater than CPI (Consumer Price Index).

The council's CEO Steve Johnston discribed the meeting on Monday as a cordial and useful discussion.

Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Steve Johnston.
Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Steve Johnston.

"Council welcomed a delegation on Monday from agricultural lobby groups, continuing our ongoing dialogue which has included previous meetings with Canegrowers and BFVG over the past few months," he said.

"Councillors indicated they would take the groups' views into account with future decision making.

"With regard to their proposed motion, it's a matter for individual councillors to determine if they wish to present a motion at a council meeting."

The farming group is also calling out Mayor Jack Dempsey for comments made before the local government election earlier this year.

Bundaberg Canegrowers Dean Cayley said the mayor "made a written and verbal commitment to keep farmland rates to consumer price index (CPI), which is cost of living, for farmland despite any changes in land valuations delivered by the State Government".

"That promise has not been honoured," he said.

Canegrowers Isis' Peter McLennan said the council needed to comply with its own policies, but also with the principles set out in the State Government's Guideline on Equity and Fairness in Rating for Queensland Local Government.

While Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Joe Lyons said the compounding nature of the current rates increases of up to 235% on farmland with an ongoing increase - even of CPI after this round - would give no hope of an end to the council-driven financial strain on farmers.

"This is unlike some of the nature-driven financial challenges such as drought or flood," he said.

"The councillors have the solution to this rates situation laid out in front of them.

"It is now up to them to enact it, in line with their duty to the community."

Mr Johnston said Cr Dempsey was correct in his pre-election statement that the overall rates increase would be in line with CPI and that's what occurred.

"For more than 80 per cent of ratepayers the increase was below CPI," he said.

"The Mayor has many skills but prophecy isn't one of them and he was unaware at the time that COVID-19 would have a serious impact on council's revenue.

"The pandemic strongly influenced council's budget deliberations and the budget was adopted unanimously."

He said the council complied with all State Government legislation and regulations in setting the budget.

The next Bundaberg Regional Council briefing meeting is scheduled for December 9, while the ordinary meeting is scheduled for December 15.

 

 

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