It’s not often a council cuts its rates in half, but that’s what a council in a drought-stricken Queensland town has done to help desperate graziers.
A Queensland council has slashed its rates bill in half to help farmers struggling with drought, and other towns are expected follow suit.
Richmond Shire Council voted on Tuesday night to reduce residents’ March half-yearly rates by 50 per cent, which will cost the council about $230,000.
“We’d much rather have rate payers in a stronger position financially so they can pay for their food and (cattle) feed bills,” Mayor John Wharton told AAP.
“Sure [it will have some impact] but we can juggle our finances around.”
Farmers make up more than 95 per cent of ratepayers in Richmond, which has a population of about 1000.
Cattle sales have plummeted and Cr Wharton fears businesses could close as the local economy slows.
“But we will make it through this – we always have,” he said.
He says about 10 other councils in drought-affected areas are also considering cutting rates.
“We made the decision to take the hit and councils should do that – they should put something back into the community,” he said.
The mayor says the federal government should consider including help for councils in its drought assistance package, expected to be announced early next week.
AgForce boss Charles Burke says the council’s decision is admirable.
“While it’s very admirable on Richmond’s part, we think there is a bigger picture in this and the state and federal government should be able to step in and help in a time like drought,” he said.
He says rain this week in some drought-stricken areas, including Richmond and Cloncurry, would be bring some relief but wasn’t drought breaking.
Bureau of Meteorology Senior Meteorologist Pradeep Singh says more rain is likely over the coming months.
“In March and sometimes in early April it can rain a lot as the monsoon system is still up in the north,” he told AAP.
More than 70 per cent of Queensland, which takes in about 6500 farms, is drought declared.