Ararat rate hike sparks community health fears

Friday June 23 2017

FARMERS facing the prospect of being slugged with a 45 per cent rate hike feel gutted by a lack of consultation over an extreme proposal by Ararat Rural City Council to scrap farm differential rates, a community survey has found.

The questionnaire, completed by nearly 200 locals, revealed a staggering 78 per cent of respondents experienced feelings of frustration, sadness and disappointment since the plan was first flagged by Council last month.

The survey also showed 75 per cent of respondents spent the last month thinking too much about the proposal, while 34 per cent were having trouble sleeping and 17 per cent were drinking more, a sign of how toxic the issue has become.

“We’re deeply concerned about the health and well-being of farmers in the Ararat community.” Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said.

“There is a real sense of despair in the community, which will only get worse if the rates proposal gets passed.”

“We’ve spoken to farmers who could see rate rises of more than $20,000 under the proposed rating strategy. This is a cost they cannot manage.

One survey respondent wrote, “How can anybody sustain that kind of increase to their expenses in one year. A farm is unlike any other business, they cannot set the price for goods sold, can only accept what is handed out. I honestly believe ARCC should be ashamed, this kind of action divides communities!!”

Another commented, “This issue has created quite a lot of stress for our family. It was completely out of the blue, with no community consultation or explanation as to why the dramatic and sudden change in the system.”

Yet another wrote, “As someone who has personally experienced the impact of farmer suicide…I am utterly [devastated] by the way the proposal has been handled.”

Mr Jochinke said the Council had a responsibility to the safety of the farming community to ensure local primary producers wouldn’t face additional economic stress due to planned changes to their annual rates.

“The fate of nearly 2,000 farmers is in the hands of Ararat Council and it is up to them to think about the potential impacts of a change to the rating strategy and do the right thing by the people they represent,” he said.

The Council will meet on Tuesday at Alexandra Oval Community Centre, 1 Waratah Avenue, Ararat, at 6PM to vote on the rating strategy.

Media Contacts:
David Jochinke, VFF President: 0427 834 524
Ashley Mackinnon, VFF Public Affairs Officer: 0417 165 784