Council offers rate relief to farmers as drought continues

A HELPING HAND: Councillors voted to offer rate relief to farmers in the shire, with many struggling as a result of the ongoing drought. Photo: supplied
A HELPING HAND: Councillors voted to offer rate relief to farmers in the shire, with many struggling as a result of the ongoing drought. Photo: supplied

Highlands farmers doing it tough could now have their rates for the current financial year deferred.

A mayoral minute put forward at the August 8 council meeting, will allow for eligible farmers in the Wingecarribee to have their rates deferred without interest.

Mayor Ken Halstead said the current drought had had a “devastating effect on the agricultural industry” across the country and in the Wingecarribee Shire.

“The rural sector remains the backbone of this country and must be supported by all levels of government including local government, which is the level of government closest to the people,” Cr Halstead said.

“It’s a significant opportunity for Wingecarribee councillors to stand up to be counted.” Councillors voted that rural ratepayers conducting accredited farming activities (farmland rated properties) within the Wingecarribee Shire, who lodge an approved hardship application, be afforded rate relief in the 2018/19 financial year. This relief will to be in the form of a deferral of rates until the 2019/20 financial year with the deferred rates not subjected to interest.

Council will also donate $10,000 from the Mayoral Relief Fund towards a fodder appeal for drought affected farmers and the funds if possible, be used within the Wingecarribee Shire but if not then within NSW.

Cr Halstead said it was not just the financial hardship of farmers that needed to be addressed.

“Council must be empathetic to the current situation including the social welfare of farmers,” he said.

Councillors also acknowledged the efforts already made at a local level to help support farmers. Drought relief was also a topic of discussion at the June 13 council meeting. At that meeting, councillors agreed to hold an information session to consider a policy where council could offer farmers practical assistance and it was also acknowledged that council has the Mayoral Relief Fund which can help farmers who are struggling.

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