Dear Litchfield Community Members
There has been much discussion in the community over the past few weeks about Litchfield’s future rating system. While some members of the community may have told you that Council has already decided on the future rating policy, that’s just not the case. Regarding the current rates notices, it is a requirement that the Unimproved Capital Value (UCV) must be printed on your Rates Notice whether we calculate this way or not.
Council will review the community feedback and then consider the future rating policy for Litchfield.
The current rating system has been in place since 1985 and hasn’t been comprehensively reviewed since then. The Litchfield region has changed significantly over the last 35 years, prior to July 2008 Litchfield was known as a shire, now we are a municipality. This means that, due to the geographical size, the density of our population and the degree of urbanization Litchfield is classified as a municipality, not a shire(Section 8 NT Local Government Act 2008). Accordingly, we have a responsibility to make sure that the rating system being administered across the municipality this is still the best system for our community.
Council’s community engagement process has been fair, open and transparent. All community members were invited to attend meetings which took place. Importantly, Council also provided the opportunity to have balanced discussions with community members. Council does not have a position. Therefore, the information has been presented to the community without attempting to influence you either way. It’s unfortunate that recent community hall meetings have only provided you with one opinion and have been designed to influence you in one direction.
It’s also unfortunate to hear that during recent community meetings, disrespectful and unfai comments have been made regarding two highly respected individuals. One being one of Australia’s preeminent experts in Local Government rating methodology and another being a former Local Government CEO, both of which have provided their independent and impartial service to our engagement process. The community have been told that these individuals have influenced the outcome to ensure that UCV is introduced. This is both disappointing and incorrect. Council does not have a position.
Council have been through an extensive consultation process to make sure everyone in Litchfield can have their say. I can confirm that there was information on Facebook, website, regular radio interviews, NT Newspaper advertising, flyers on Community Noticeboards, and an article in the Rates Newsletter that was directly mailed out to all ratepayers. Every effort has been made to inform and engage with community members on this topic and particularly throughout the consultation process. Whilst every effort is made, inevitably some community members might miss this information, but I can assure you that Council will continue to promote these initiatives far and wide.
There were also 8 formal community meetings facilitated by the Litchfield Council Elected Members.
These meetings were fair, open and transparent and will help Council make a decision that is in the best interests of our whole community – not just one group of the community. We thank the community members who attended and engaged respectfully with Council.
However, writing to council with feedback just saying “No to UCV” is both unhelpful and demonstrates that community members are not engaging in the discussion which limits councils understanding of the reasoning behind their positions. Council already uses valuation based‐charges (UCV) to assess rating categories, specifically commercial and industrial properties. This practice is nationally recognised (and legislated) as a fair and equitable method to distribute differential rating. However, Council does not have a position for residential properties that are currently on a fixed rate.
Litchfield Council is committed to implementing rates responsibly, strategically and accountably.
It is unfortunate that, after meeting with council and being informed of the consultation process to take place, our local members decided to hold meetings outside of this consultation period. Information that has been presented to you at these meetings has been misrepresented and is designed to put forward only one side of the information.
Council supports all the residents in the municipality, including those which consider themselves rural. As Elected Members, we have an obligation to represent and make decisions in the best interest of all the residents that call Litchfield home.
Can I further encourage you to read the documents provided by Council regarding the rating methodology currently in place and the proposals presented to the Council by the Community Reference Group to inform your position and feedback for the next stage of Council’s consultation process.
We are listening. Community members will have another opportunity to provide council with feedback on the draft Rating Policy in November 2019.
Council does not have a position
Mayor Maree Bredhauer