A recent spike in Queensland agricultural land values has prompted calls from the farming industry and academics to change the way council rates and state government rents are calculated for farmers.
- The Queensland Government this month valued 25 shires, with three of them increasing by more than 100 per cent
- The unimproved land valuations are used as a marker for council rates and state government land rent
- Charters Towers Regional Council Deputy Mayor Sonia Bennetto says there are no plans to dramatically increase rates despite the valuations
Earlier this month, the Queensland Valuer-General released new land values for 25 shires across the state, reflecting some large increases in agricultural land — with three western shires seeing values increase by more than 100 per cent.
With the values used as a guide for local council rates and state government rent, lobby groups such as AgForce and individual producers have already started campaigning to make sure the fees do not skyrocket.
Central Queensland University’s Professor John Rolfe said the system was broken and did not reward producers who used less of the infrastructure they were paying for.
“The enterprises that draw more on public assets such as roads and infrastructure, they pay exactly the same rates as somebody who has had a very light touch on their land,” Professor Rolfe said.
“You have a large business that may be trucking a lot of cattle in from another operation so they have a much bigger impact on roads than a smaller producer who may be breeding, fattening and trucking them out to market.”
Council rates and land rents are based on unimproved land valuations, which aim to provide the value of each property if there were no improvements like roads, water, fences and houses.
“The ways of looking at it are to either come up with a different rating base that’s based on activity or, in some cases, special rating activities where there are major impacts on infrastructure.”
Council not passing on rate increases
In north Queensland, the Charters Towers Regional Council had planned to adjust its rates to make sure producers were not slugged with larger fees, despite a 96 per cent increase in values.
Deputy Mayor Sonia Bennetto said the possibility of increased rent for leasehold land owners in the area was not good news.
“The drought followed by monsoon impacts where they had significant losses of cattle and are now in the efforts of trying to re-stock their herds.”
Cr Bennetto said there was some concern a series of agricultural land acquisitions by the Defence Force had skewed the valuations, with the department paying above market price.
But a spokesman for the Queensland Department of Resources said those sales were not considered in the latest round of valuations.
“State Valuation Service valuers working in Charters Towers were aware of Defence land acquisitions within the region,” he said.
“These sales however were not used to determine valuations for properties in the locality.”
Industry calls for valuations scrutiny
Despite the calls to change the system, industry peak body AgForce has been asking landholders to double check their valuations to make sure they do not pay any more fees than they have to.
Agforce valuer John Moore said the responsibility was on landholders to make sure the information was correct before the deadline for objections at the end of May.
“Agforce will be helping their members through this process.
“We’ll be rolling out different webinars and face-to-face meetings if required.”