MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council has reversed its decision for a rural living rate on small properties living inside the green wedge.
Councillors last week (Tuesday 23 June) voted to abandon the new category which added about $900 to the rate bills of 724 properties up to two hectares.
The contentious rate was introduced mid-last year and supported unanimously by councillors but opposed by ratepayers.
About 40 residents attended a stormy community meeting at Red Hill Mechanics Hall in October 2019 and made their opposition known to the then mayor Cr David Gill and CEO John Baker (“Green wedge rate row still boiling along” The News 21/10/19).
The new rate was justified at the time by the shire’s chief financial officer Bulent Oz who said smaller property owners gained greater value than the general ratepayer from programs and policies protecting the green wedge and their rural residential amenity and, as a result, should pay more for the privilege of living there.
Cr Gill last week brought the plan undone and admitted the rural living rate had “done nothing to improve the green wedge”.
“It wasn’t working, so we moved to abolish it,” he said.
He said those previously paying the higher rate would now be charged the general rate. The “lost” rate income from the 724 properties would add “$3 or $4” to the average rate bill, he said.
“It does affect the income to council, but the burden has been shifted to a different set of ratepayers.”
Red Hill resident Paul Whitaker said residents were pleased with the council’s change of heart: “We’ve had a win,” he said. “It was a good outcome.”
He said he had heard that some ratepayers charged the higher rate this year “might be seeking a refund”.