THE campaign to fix the rural rates divide is moving forward with high-profile local businessman and Mildura Rural City Councillor Stefano de Pieri appointed co-chair of the RateGate campaign.

The campaign, initiated by the Reason Coalition, is aiming to recruit rural and regional MPs, mayors, councillors, CEOs and other stakeholders from across the State. To assist this process, a draft resolution for Councils to adopt will be produced.

Mildura Rural City Council deputy Mayor, Helen Healy said while she would seek full endorsement of the initiative from council, as a ratepayer and business owner she was fully supportive of the campaign calling for structural reform of rural rates and equity for regional council areas.

Since its launch in December, Reason Coalition MPs Ali Cupper and Fiona Patten had their first meeting with Local Government Minister Shaun Leane to discuss the issue, and an e-petition calling for permanent, structural reform to fix the rural-metro disparity has garnered almost 800 signatures.

“Despite some positive signals from the State Government, we are not taking anything for granted. This issue has been the ‘too-hard basket’ for successive Governments for many years. We need everyone to do their bit. And that starts with signing the petition and sharing it with family and friends”, Ms Cupper said.

“We are happy to have hundreds of signatures, but we need thousands. We know the problem, we know the solution, now is the time for all of us to tell the Government that enough is enough.”

Another key part of the campaign will be the Regional Stakeholder Engagement Team (ReSET), comprising mainly representatives from rural and regional councils. The first meeting of ReSET was held last week, and a resolution will now be sent to all regional and rural Victorian councils to adopt and formally state their support for the campaign.

“The issue of rates inequity is relevant throughout regional Victoria, so I am hopeful other councils see the benefit of lobbying the Victorian Government for change,” Ms Cupper said.

Ms Cupper and Reason Coalition leader Fiona Patten took the RateGate campaign on the road throughout the Mildura electorate last week with a round of meetings with key stakeholders.

The petition can be found at www.parliament.vic.gov.au/council/petitions/electronic-petitions/view-e-petitions/details/12/303