By VINNIE RODI
IN a case of ask and you shall receive, the wishes of drought-impacted Millewa farmers has been heard by Mildura Rural City Council.
Mildura Councillors voted unanimously on Wednesday night to direct $420,000 in State Government funding towards immediate rates relief to 253 identified broad acre dryland farms, proportionate to the Capital Improved Value of each property’s rates assessment.
Councillors also moved to allocate a further $250,000 in State funds to rate relief subject to State Government approval.
This second tier of funding was originally earmarked for ‘infrastructure spending’, however based on the advice of key stakeholders and affected farmers, Council felt it was more prudent to direct the funding toward further rates relief.
Member for Mildura Ali Cupper yesterday confirmed that the State had agreed to Council’s request.
“I have been pushing hard for this change since the Premier and Minister for Agriculture visited the region on October 2 to announce the Drought Support Package,” she said. “In the last fortnight there’s been letters and meetings with the Premier and Minister for Agriculture, and today I have put the question directly to the Premier in the Legislative Assembly.”
The total amount of $670,000 has been made available through the Victorian Government’s Local Government Service Support Program, which was specifically aimed at helping farmers battling drought in the Millewa and Carwarp areas.
Affected farmers will soon be notified of the credit against their respective rates bill.
According to a report tabled to Councillors on Wednesday, the method of distribution has the full backing of Millewa/Carwarp dryland farming advocacy groups.
“The distribution methodology in its simplicity ensures a practical, efficient and equitable way of availing rate relief without delay,” the report reads.
Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence thanked the State Government for stepping up to the plate.
“Farmer groups we spoke to were very keen for support to come from the State as to not impact Council and other ratepayers,” he said. “Credit to the State Government… they deserve the kudos. We know the primary want of farmers is rate relief… and it’s pleasing that we can deliver this support.
“Some of these affected farmers are paying some $30,000 in rates, sometimes more, and if you’re a drought-impacted farmer… you could feed a family on $30,000… It’s a big ticket item for them.”
Cr Clemence said that Council would continue to support farmers, and other affected ratepayers, suffering hardships.