Bitter history is being repeated

MANY residents who took Gannawarra Shire Council to the Supreme Court in 2000 when council first planned a uniform rate base are concerned that history is being repeated.

At least six of those who spoke at Tuesday night's hearing into the proposed 2017/18 budget were directly involved in efforts between 2001 and 2004 to determine a fair and equitable rateable strategy for the municipality.

"My father's name is on one of these honour boards in this chamber, and he would be turning in his grave knowing we are dealing with this issue a second time around," Dingwall farmer, Colin Fenton said.

"It took ratepayers to boycott paying rates, and for Supreme Court action, for a reasonable outcome to be achieved last time. Surely we are not going down the same path," Kerang resident, Rodger Shipp said.

At the time, council faced growing opposition to its proposal, with many landowners refusing to pay their rates.

This led to council taking legal action against 10 of the municipality's largest landowners.

In turn, around 250 farmers put their properties on the line to take council to the Supreme Court on the matter, led by former Cohuna Shire Council representative, John Smith.

With the financial backing of the Victorian Farmers Federation and National Farmers' Federation, the affected residents spent two years fighting for their cause in the Supreme Court, with both parties settling in 2002.

"All council did (in taking the 10 landowners to court) was escalate the problem," Mr Smith said.

The action led to the formation of the Gannawarra Ratepayers Group, which sat down with council to develop a number of rateable variation options, which council has used since.

The result was the implementation of a differential rates system, which has been in place for the past 14 years.

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