FIVE generations of farming is under threat in Traralgon because of a council gouge that increased a family’s rates to $40,000 a year.
The Marshall family has worked 325 acres of land on the outskirts of the rural city since 1928.
But they are now swimming in debt because of the rates, and wondering how they will stay afloat.
The Latrobe City Council rezoned their land residential, and keep increasing the rates.
Len Marshall on his Traralgon farm, which has been owned by his family since 1928. Picture: supplied
And they are now $220,000 behind, which is attracting 10 per cent interest — or $20,000 a year — on top of their $40,000 annual bill.
“If we’re lucky, we will pay the interest off. With the closure of the Hazelwood coal mine, the developers are telling us that it will be seven to nine years before they need our land,” fourth generation farmer Len Marshall said.
“The bill could be a million by that stage.”
Mr Marshall, 64, said he wanted to keep farming the land.
“We’re farmers, we’re up at 5am and rarely stop before 8pm and we’re over 60 and we’re out there doing fencing,” he said.
“We’ve been working and working, just to be belted around the head by bureaucrats.”
The Latrobe City Council rezoned the Marshall’s land residential, and keep increasing the rates.
Mr Marshall’s wife Debbie said: “Every time I think about it I feel sick inside. We just want to be farmers, I can’t grasp it.”
The rates pain began in 2009 when their property on the northeast fringe of the town was rezoned residential.
They paid just $2981 in rates on the property in 2010, which was valued at $681,000.
The next year they were hit with a $21,831, with the property value jumping to a paper value of almost $7 million.
The council now claims it is worth up to $10 million but a private valuation came back at $4.1 million at the time.
“If we’re lucky, we will pay the interest off. With the closure of the Hazelwood coal mine, the developers are telling us that it will be seven to nine years before they need our land”: Len Marshall. Picture: Supplied
As the debts piled up, the family were forced to put the property on the market in October 2016 but have yet to get an offer.
And the closure of the Hazelwood power plant has dented any future developments because hundreds of jobs have been stripped from the local economy.
The couple’s son Bobby, 27, was hoping to take over the land from his parents.
“It’s the best quality land for 300km. I was born and bred there. We don’t want to get rid of it for some homes,” he said.
A lot in a housing estate is offered for sale with the farm in the background. Picture: Supplied
A dozer sits in a housing estate with the farm in the background. Picture: Supplied
House and land packages offered in the housing estate near the farm. Picture: Supplied
Mr Marshall has complained to the council and the Victorian Ombudsman and has reserved the right to take the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Greg Drumm, Latrobe City Council general manager of corporate services, said Mr Marshall’s objection to his valuation had been forwarded to the Valuer General for a review.
He said the Marshall family had the chance to object when the land was rezoned in 2010.
“No objection or request to exclude was received,” he said.
“Mr and Mrs Marshall have had meetings or phone conversations with the Mayor, CEO, General Managers, Manager Finance and several other members of Council regarding their options available.
“As the property is currently being used for farming, Mr and Mrs Marshall receive the farm differential rate which is set at 75 per cent of the general rate.”