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Sugarcane Farmers Seek Fairer Rates Amidst Mackay Growth

Sugarcane Farmers Seek Fairer Rates Amidst Mackay Growth
Image courtesy of Facebook | Canegrowers Mackay

Urban Expansion Threatens Cane Lands

As Mackay expands, the sugarcane industry faces significant challenges, particularly in light of the Mackay Regional Council’s (MRC) approach to agricultural land rating.

CANEGROWERS Mackay, representing local cane farmers, has called on the council to reconsider its rating policies, which they argue unfairly burden cane growers compared to other agricultural sectors.

High Valuations and Inequitable Rates

Kevin Borg, Chairman of CANEGROWERS Mackay, highlighted the impact of urban development on cane lands. The city’s growth has led to higher State Land Valuations for cane lands, often reflecting residential and industrial land prices rather than agricultural returns.

This disparity has resulted in steep rate increases for many farmers, with some facing hikes exceeding $18,000 since the last land valuations.

According to data from Mackay Sugar milling, nearly 12,000 hectares have been lost from cane production since 2007—a 13.63% reduction. Despite a reduction in the cents-in-the-dollar rate from 2.77 to 2.25 last year, 40% of growers still experienced significant rate increases.

Economic Potential of Sugarcane

Borg emphasised the potential of sugarcane as a renewable resource, capable of producing fuels, fibres, and foods, thus contributing to the regional economy. However, the current rating system hampers this potential by placing an excessive financial burden on cane farmers.

The State Government supports developing the sugarcane sector but preserving cane land is crucial. The council’s rating structure, established in 2007, segregates cane farming from other agricultural activities, which CANEGROWERS Mackay argues is unreasonable.

Call for Equitable Treatment

CANEGROWERS Mackay urges the MRC to adopt the State Government’s Guideline on Equity and Fairness in rating for Queensland Local Governments. This guideline advocates for land used for similar purposes to be similarly rated. Borg stressed that cane farms, often family-run enterprises, deserve equitable treatment, not special treatment.

Fairer rates for cane growers will support the industry and, by extension, the region’s economic diversity. The council has the power to adjust its rating categories and alleviate the financial strain on growers, ensuring a more balanced approach to agricultural land rating in Mackay.

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