No cash grab in green wedge rates – shire

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Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has hit back at claims it is making a rates “cash grab” from smaller properties within the green wedge.

“When one sector of ratepayers has a change of rate burden, in this case an increase, others receive a decrease; it causes no overall increase in rate income,” the mayor Cr David Gill said.

The claims come as the shire faces protests over its levying of a 20 per cent rates hike on the owners of 724 green wedge properties of two hectares in size or less (“Irate at green wedge rate increase” The News 24/9/19).

Paul Whitaker, of Red Hill, said residents hit by a jump of up to $900 in the Rural Living Rate were “shocked” at the size of the hike. Thirty-year resident Sandra Miller initially thought there “must have been a mistake” when she opened her recent rates’ notice.

“The council has not been transparent in the introduction of this,” she said. “This 20 per cent increase on top of our already sizeable rates is completely unfair.”

Cr Gill defended the decision saying the vote to bring in the rural living rate was “unanimous [after] a thorough deliberation of the issues”.

He said the state government-forced rate cap of 2.5 per cent applied to the total shire rate income, with individual rate notices varying according to yearly valuations.

“Special rating categories are offered to farmers who received a 65 per cent rate dispensation because of the benefit they bring in protecting the green wedge from insensitive development,” Cr Gill said.

“There is also the potential for suitable properties to apply for a rural conservation rate of minus 25 per cent if works are approved that benefit the green wedge.”

Cr Hugh Fraser said affected residents “gained greater value than the general ratepayer from the programs and policies which protect the green wedge and their rural residential amenity”.

The higher rates paid for living within the green wedge would go towards reducing rates charged to general ratepayers and the owners of larger green wedge properties.

The shire’s financial controller Bulent Oz said smaller blocks did not make the same contribution to the green wedge – such as supporting agricultural production, providing habitat or maintaining landscape values, and did not incur the same land management costs – yet “their owners still gain greater value than the general ratepayer from the programs and policies which protect the green wedge and their rural residential amenity”.

“In this context council determined to use a differential rate so that owners of these smaller ‘rural living lots’ pay more in the dollar of Capital Improved Value reflecting the benefit they gain from a location within the green wedge,” he said.

“This in turn will reduce the rate in the dollar charged to general ratepayers and the owners of larger properties in the green wedge.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 15 October 2019

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