CBH in row on rates

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Wil­liams

CBH and other char­i­ta­ble, re­li­gious and not-for­profit groups op­er­at­ing prof­itable busi­nesses are in the fir­ing line of lo­cal gov­ern­ments that are seek­ing re­moval of their cur­rent rate ex­emp­tions.

The WA Lo­cal Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion hopes to claw back some of the $45 mil­lion it es­ti­mates is for­gone in shire and coun­cil rates each year by not tax­ing these or­gan­i­sa­tions.

WALGA pres­i­dent Lynne Craigie said re­moval of rate ex­emp­tions was a key plank of its sub­mis­sion to amend the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act, which would be pro­vided to the State Govern­ment by March 2019.

“Our pol­icy is to make changes to the char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions sec­tion of the Act to elim­i­nate rate ex­emp­tions for com­mer­cial — non-char­i­ta­ble — busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties of char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions, or set up a com­pen­satory fund for lo­cal gov­ern­ments,” she said.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ments would then be able to col­lect rates based on the cur­rent val­u­a­tion sys­tem, or ne­go­ti­ate with in­di­vid­ual groups about the level of con­tri­bu­tion they would make to a com­pen­sa­tion fund.”

CBH is reg­is­tered as a co-op­er­a­tive and is 100 per cent owned by WA grain grow­ers.

On the ba­sis of the ben­e­fits it de­liv­ers for these grow­ers, and the grain in­dus­try, it is en­dorsed as a char­i­ta­ble body at a Fed­eral level.

If it lost char­i­ta­ble sta­tus un­der the pro­posed WALGA amend­ments, it could be re­quired to pay sig­nif­i­cant sums in rates or com­pen­satory pay­ments to lo­cal gov­ern­ments across the State.

CBH gen­er­ated al­most $3.5 bil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 and re­ported a net profit of $91.3 mil­lion.

The group re­ceives and stores 90 per cent of WA’s grain pro­duc­tion at its 195 fa­cil­i­ties across the WA

grain­belt and has four strate­gi­cally lo­cated grain ex­port ter­mi­nals.

As part of its long-term net­work strat­egy, it has stated it will fo­cus fu­ture main­te­nance and cap­i­tal in­vest­ment on a core 100 sites.

Many of the CBH sites are on sub­stan­tial land parcels that could pro­vide many smaller shire and coun­cil bod­ies with fund­ing for in­fra­struc­ture, such as roads, if CBH was forced to pay rates or equiv­a­lent com­pen­sa­tion.

It is un­der­stood that CBH pays a ne­go­ti­ated ex gra­tia pay­ment to some shires, but the group de­clined to com­ment on the amount.

It also de­clined to com­ment on WALGA’s pro­posed changes to the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act.

Ms Craigie said the CBH ex­emp­tion was a good ex­am­ple of why the Act needed to be mod­ernised.

“We are not seek­ing to re­move rate ex­emp­tions from groups that le­git­i­mately need them but we would like lo­cal govern­ment bod­ies to be able to ne­go­ti­ate with these groups in their districts about ap­pro­pri­ate rates,” she said.

“This should also ap­ply to re­li­gious or char­i­ta­ble groups run­ning prof­itable farm­ing busi­nesses.

“If they are us­ing land to pro­duce and sell crops, they should pay rates.”

The City of Greater Ger­ald­ton has many CBH re­ceival sites across its district that are not sub­ject to rate pay­ments.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said CBH did pay a non-com­pul­sory, mu­tu­ally agreed “rate equiv­a­lent” ex gra­tia amount to the coun­cil for its lo­cal re­ceival sites but this was be­low com­mer­cial values, in his opin­ion.

“We think all land should be rate­able and then in­di­vid­ual lo­cal gov­ern­ments should be able to ne­go­ti­ate with groups in their ju­ris­dic­tion to de­ter­mine any rate con­ces­sions,” Mr Van Styn said.

Mr Van Styn es­ti­mated the coun­cil could po­ten­tially re­ceive $2 mil­lion in ex­tra rate rev­enue across these or­gan­i­sa­tions if their ex­emp­tion was lifted.

City of Al­bany mayor Den­nis Welling­ton said many char­i­ta­ble groups in Al­bany did not pay rates, but en­joyed ameni­ties funded by other ratepay­ers.

Mr Welling­ton es­ti­mated the district was miss­ing out on about $500,000 in rev­enue from these po­ten­tial ratepay­ers.

He said CBH and any other farm­ing op­er­a­tions run by char­i­ta­ble groups should be part of the ratepay­ing sys­tem.

Chang­ing the rules would gen­er­ate much needed rev­enue for lo­cal gov­ern­ments through­out the south coast.

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