Farmers call for rate relief

Council rate hike criticised

A DECREASE in the council rate paid by Wellington Shire farmers would benefit the agriculture sector, according to the Victorian Farmers’ Federation.

In a written submission to council, the VFF proposed a step-down in the differential rate paid by farmers from 80 per cent to 50 per cent over three years.

Speaking to Wellington Shire councillors about the draft 2013-14 budget on Tuesday night, VFF member Tim Paulett said farmers were paying twice as much in rates as the average resident.

“We think a step-down in the differential rate would be something of enormous benefit to the farming community,” he said.

“Agriculture here, in Wellington, is one of the premier industries and, I’m reliably informed, about 15 per cent of the workforce in Wellington is gainfully employed in agriculture.”

Councillor Darren McCubbin said Wellington Shire Council had the second lowest rate differential in Gippsland behind Latrobe City Council.

Mr Paulet said farmers would appreciate more consulting about road and bridge upgrades.

VFF members, Mr Paulet said, welcomed funding to upgrade the Sale Livestock Exchange. Council had allocated $800,000 in the budget and $3.3 million over three years.

“We’re glad to see some progress happening. We look forward to an updated and more modernised facility.”

Among other people making submissions, Tarra Freemasons Lodge Master Bill Kee was asking council to allocated $10,400 towards an outdoor fitness park adjacent to the future Yarram Hub.

The balance of the $42,000 project, which will include eight pieces of fitness equipment, will come from Freemasons, the wider community and services provided in-kind.

A financial contribution from council could be accommodated within the budget allocation for playgrounds.

Grand Strzelecki Track committee president Steb Fisher proposed council increase its funding to maintain the track between the Tarra Bulga and Morwell national parks from $2400 to $7200.

Mr Fisher said the committee needed more funds to cover the $60,000 in maintenance costs, with an increased council contribution leading to further funding from State and Federal governments.

Loch Sport resident Sharyn Lawrence was seeking council support for a 130 metre walkway for all-abilities access to the Ninety Mile Beach at Loch Sport.

“We have received a grant from (DEPI) Fisheries for $50,000, local contributions of $11,500. The project is expected to cost between $100,000 and $150,000,” she said.

Ms Lawrence said the grant from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries was conditional on the rest of the money being raised by June 30 next year.

After submissions have been considered, the 2013-14 budget will be formally adopted during council’s June 4 meeting.

´╗┐For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.