Hobby farmers fear City of Swan rate review

Stock image.
Stock image.

RESIDENTS on rural properties within the City of Swan say they are concerned and confused after a letter was sent to them informing them of a rate review, which could change the use of their property.

Currently 4000 residents in the City are on rural hobby farms rated on unimproved valuation (UV).

Non-rural land is rated on gross rental valuation (GRV).

The City has asked ratepayers to review whether their property is used for agricultural pursuits, leaving them concerned the review could lead to an increase in rates and open them up to risk of subdivision for those who do not make a living off their land.

Sally Block from the Gidgegannup Progress Association said the City had sent the letter to residents without any prior warning or information.

She said residents were sent a land use declaration and asked to send it back within 21 days without any information about what it meant.

“Most of the properties in this area are hobby farms and aren’t used for broadacre farming or used to make a living – they are just rural properties and that’s why people choose to live here,” she said.

“The City voted on this in their April meeting. Why wasn’t the letter sent out then to give residents time to understand it?

“We aren’t against the review, we just don’t know what it means.

“People are concerned this will increase their rates. Some people have two houses on their rural properties – will this mean two lots of rates? We just don’t know.”

The City has extended the time for ratepayers to return their land use declaration form until December 22, but councillor Charlie Zannino believes more time is needed.

Cr Zannino will move a motion at next month’s council meeting asking for further time.

“If I get the support for my motion, the time period will be extended until June 30,” he said.

“There’s a lot of confusion and people need to understand what they are signing and there simply isn’t enough time.”

Swan acting chief executive Mark Bishop said the City understood there had been confusion surrounding the UV rate review.

“The City has a role in ensuring the rating principles of the Local Government Act are correctly applied to rateable land within the district. That means ensuring rural land is rated on its unimproved valuation and non-rural land is rated on its gross rental valuation,” he said.

“As the use of land can change from time to time, it is important for the City to have a system in place to detect land use changes so that the valuation method can be modified accordingly.

“The last review of all UV rated properties was undertaken in 2007. Updating this information will ensure that rating policies are equitable across the City.”

Mr Bishop said the change in rating could impact rates.

“If a property changes from UV to GRV, rates may increase or decrease. This will depend on the valuation by the Valuer General’s Office and the rate in the dollar adopted by the City,” he said.

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