Drought affected farmers in the South Burnett face more financial and emotional stress following the local council's decision to hike rural rates by between eight and 17 per cent this year, AgForce Queensland said today.
AgForce South-East Queensland Regional President Carolyn Stone has written to the South Burnett Mayor on behalf of local AgForce members urging the council to rethink its rural rates hike.
"The South Burnett is one of the 23 council areas in the 57 per cent of Queensland currently drought declared, and many local producers are doing it tough," she said.
"This surprise rate hike puts unnecessary pressure on producers, and was imposed without any consultation and seemingly little consideration of the impact on local farm businesses or the flow through to other farm-dependent businesses.
"Some producers could end up paying tens of thousands of dollars more in council rates at a time when they can least afford it.
"Local ratepayers understand rural roads need to be repaired, and AgForce has worked with the Council on improving regional agricultural freight routes while we continue to lobby the State Government for more road funding.
"However, landholders have seen no well-prepared road maintenance timeline and can't understand how the Council justifies such a large hike on one part of the community in one hit."
Mrs Stone said AgForce members were urging the South Burnett Regional Council to reverse this decision or at the very least phase in the increase over a number of years.
"We also called for the council to extend the discount period for rate payments and are pleased they have now done this, but there really needs to be much more transparent and honest communication with ratepayers when large increases are being proposed," she said.
Today's call from AgForce follow recent heated community meetings that have attracted crowds of more than 150 people, and ahead of the rates notices going out next month.