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Land management rate phased out

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Mt Alexander Shire Council has made changes to its Land Management Rate (LMR) Strategy, which was adopted to encourage private landholders on blocks of 20 hectares or more to be responsible property managers in terms of improving the natural environment.  

The LMR scheme is being phased out, and all landholders who are part of this scheme will be automatically transferred to the reduced farm rate from July 2023.   

In return for a 20 per cent reduction on the general property rate, landholders qualifying for the LMR scheme have spent time and money on projects such as replanting native vegetation, building protective fences, removing weeds and reducing the rabbit population.    

The criteria for being eligible for the reduced farm rate, however, are different to those relating to the LMR scheme. To qualify for the reduced farm rate, landowners must primarily be using their land for an approved farming activity and must be carrying out a commercial and profit-making enterprise on that land. Approved farming activities range from grazing, cropping and horticulture to fish farming, viticulture and poultry farming.

Maldon resident John (not his real name, but he doesn’t wish to be identified) is unhappy with the fact that the LMR scheme is being phased out. He and his partner have taken advantage of the scheme to undertake conservation work on their 50-acre block, which is on the outskirts of the town. “Each year we’ve actually spent more than the 20 per cent discount, but it has been of great assistance to us,” he said. “For us, and for others with similar blocks, it has been a real incentive to undertake important work.”

John believes that the phasing out of the LMR scheme is a retrograde step. “If anything, Council needs to be more actively involved in caring for the natural environment,” he said, “and that includes encouraging property owners to improve their land. The LMR scheme has been working for us. We have had to send regular reports to Council, and they could come out to inspect our land at any time to confirm that we were in fact making those improvements.”

Cr Stephen Gardner told the Times that he doubted the LMR strategy achieved its original objectives. “Its intention was to support the farming community,” he said. “While many landowners have been receiving the benefit, a lot of people have been claiming it and doing nothing.”

When questioned as to whether Council had been checking to see if property owners were in fact keeping their end of the bargain and making improvements, Cr Gardner said, “There are 3,000 to 4,000 properties involved. Doing an audit with that number of properties is quite tricky.”

Tarrangower Times 11 November 2022

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 11 November 2022.


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