This letter is in response to Ian MacBean’s (March13) regarding concerns of rate equity and “fair go” for the Trentham ratepayers.

I believe the exposure from the Hepburn Council online “Our Say” has highlighted concerns of ratepayers across the shire and not so much a sympathy vote for the Trentham community.

Many small rural communities are struggling with rising bureaucracy and infrastructure costs which puts pressure to regularly raise resident rates.

A report this month by the Victorian Auditor-General has been scathing of rating practices of local government and called for regular strategy reviews and better communication with ratepayers on decision making. The report conveys that there is a lack of clarity, detail and direction. The differential rate system is being applied with broad interpretation and the farming sector is actively seeking a farm rate review.

I maintain that Trentham woes are symptomatic of a broad spectrum of unease over local government tax collection practices and the flow on of how these monies are then redistributed as services rendered to local residents.

On a seperate topic, “Vote for Rate Equity”, posted more than a week after Ian MacBean’s topic, was also voted in the top 10 most popular on “Our Say”. This topic concerns ratepayers with property affected by water authorities and planning policy which prohibits building a dwelling or sheds thus devaluing their landholding.

Council CIV rate valuations are underpinned by valuations reflecting the ability to have a dwelling. They believe council has been collecting rates based on the higher valuations. If they are refused a permit then rates should be significantly reduced. There are property owners who have invested many, many thousands of dollars only to be devastated by the current circumstances.

Read the online “Our Say” comments of Landowners expressing frustration that the denial of the right to build and the right to use their land effectively devalues their property significantly and council still tax at the higher rate.

Unfortunately I believe this topic will likely stay in the high 10. Why? Because if the Trentham community or other affected landholders benefit by a rate review, rather than keeping the dollars rolling in for the shire management, someone else has to pay more.

Ian Esmore


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