The Victorian Farmers Federation has welcomed the appointment of three commissioners to investigate Ararat Rural City Council over its rating strategy.
Frances O’Brien QC will chair the inquiry, bringing significant legal experience to the role and knowledge of local government processes, having also chaired a Commission of Inquiry into governance at Greater Geelong City Council.
Ms. O’Brien will be joined by former Brimbank City Council administrator John Tanner AM and local government expert Mark Davies, who brings accounting experience and rating strategy knowledge to the role.
“There has been a lot of anger and frustration in the Ararat community over the Council’s rating strategy, and we’re relieved to see the Victorian Government stepping in with this inquiry,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
“We have confidence that the investigation will be conducted fairly and openly by a commission that is bringing extensive knowledge in local government administration to their roles, and we look forward to seeing the results of the inquiry when the report is released.”
The Commission will consult with Ararat ratepayers as part of its process before handing down its report on August 1 2017.
Local farmers have campaigned against the Council’s plan to scrap its differential rating strategy in favour of a uniform system, which would see the area’s primary producers suffer a 45 per cent rate hike.
“It’s becoming impossible for farmers to pass on rate increases because farm land is a means of production and its value bears little relationship to the farmers’ wealth or capacity to pay,” Mr Jochinke said.
“Farmers don’t receive the same benefits for their rates as other businesses and this should be reflected in the Council’s rating strategy.”