Farmers wary of land values leading to rates hit

Farmers wary of land values leading to rates hit

We are fast approaching the time of year when new land valuations are circulated by the Queensland Valuer General and in some farming regions, there’s more than a little concern building.

According to Rabobank, farmland across Queensland rose in value by 15 per cent in 2020 and that was tipped to be higher in 2021 as it was expected there’d be half the number of properties on the market compared to 2020. Of course, higher values come when there’s demand for the land, either because of its agricultural or development potential and if you’re selling, that’s a good thing.

The concern comes because of the link between those official valuations and local government rates. For the past two years CANEGROWERS has completed an analysis of how sugarcane farms have fared when the 13 Queensland councils which cover the sugar industry set their rates.

These are areas where CANEGROWERS members, through their farming businesses, underpin the local economy, the community and up to one-in-three jobs. The analysis found:

  • On average the local government rate paid by a cane farm is 35% above the average residential rate indicating more reliance on cane farms to support council revenue.
  • On average council rates make up around 4% of the annual operating costs of Queensland cane farming businesses.

It concluded that, “Most councils have a revenue and rates policy together with their own set of principles as to how rates are determined. However, there is little publicly available information explaining why a particular rate applies to a cane farm. The resultant outcome can be rate bill shocks that can impede investment and economic growth across Queensland.”

So, our plea to local government this year is, please, no rate bill shocks. We ask that any increases are kept at reasonable levels as councils have the power and discretion to cushion any shocks, regardless of what land valuations say, so the viability of businesses is not put in jeopardy.

Our analysis shows that cane farms are already paying more than their fair share towards council revenue when, it could be argued, they can access fewer services than ratepayers in residential areas.

CANEGROWERS district offices and elected representatives are using the analysis as a basis to engage and talk with their local councils right across the industry.

While sugar prices are high at present, so too are input cost pressures on farms such as fertiliser prices and some cane farm areas, particularly in the Wide Bay region, are recovering from multiple flooding events this summer.

Last year, CANEGROWERS assisted members to lodge notices of objection to land valuation changes, with some success. CANEGROWERS is ready to do this again this year if needed.

Members can also read more about the objection process in an article by CANEGROWERS Legal Adviser Chris Cooper in the Member Resources section of the CANEGROWERS website.