Sour grapes over SW rates review

THE Margaret River Wine Industry Association has raised concerns over the Shire of Busselton’s land rates review, fearing the cost of running commercial operations could be too high. Public consultation on the shire’s intention to charge landowners on a ‘split’ rating basis has just finished. The assessment requires the commercial portion of a property, such as a winery, restaurant or chalet operation, to be rated on the basis of a prescribed gross rental value (GVR), while the agricultural portion – vineyard, crops and cattle – is charged based on its unimproved value (UV). MRWIA chief executive Nick Power said the shire had already committed itself to implementing the rating review, regardless of public comment, and warned that many small and medium sized wineries could not pay increases. Mr Power told WA Business News the association had serious reservations about the shire’s methodology of assessment and was disappointed with the lack of information provided. It also considered council’s initiation of the process over the Christmas/New Year period to be in bad taste. “We still remain unclear as to the platform for this assessment. We understand it’s practically impossible for the Valuer General’s Office to assess individual properties on a GVR basis,” Mr Power said. The association has found it difficult to quantify what the cost impost on property owners will be. Shire chief executive Andrew MacNish said most of the association’s concerns were reasonable at this early stage in the process, however he rebutted the claim that council had established its position on the matter, prior to community consultation. “Council doesn’t have an established position on the rating system, and that’s why we’re doing the review,” he said. “Rating is never an issue that will go away. We may not reach agreement on some issues but the whole aim of this exercise is for council to determine if we like it or we don’t.” Mr MacNish said council would try to seek a fair valuation method, and planned a community workshop to encourage debate in the lead up to its budget release mid-year.

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