Former mayors Kevin Bailey and Mick Wainwright say most of the councillors supporting the 30 per cent rate hike pledged to keep rates low during their election campaigns. Picture: Anita McInnes

Former mayors attack land tax increase

Former mayor Mick Wainwright says he doesn’t own any land in Swan that would be affected by the decision but he feels it is unjust and not warranted.
February 22, 2024
Anita McInnes

TWO former City of Swan mayors have criticised a decision made at last week’s council meeting to raise vacant land tax rates to encourage infill while raising money to increase the city’s tree canopy.

The former mayors Mick Wainwright and Kevin Bailey said a 30 per cent rate rise on vacant blocks would be a greedy cash grab that would stymie investment.

But the motion to adopt a 30 per cent rate increase on vacant land could return to next month’s council meeting with Midland Guildford councillor Rashelle Predovnik saying she and four other councillors were working on revoking it.

In Motion has a vacant-land tax sting (Echo News, February 16) Whiteman ward councillor Dave Knight’s reason for the motion was the housing crisis and the need to increase urban infill by encouraging vacant landholders to develop their land, it would bring the city into line with other local government areas and generate an estimated $1.5 million extra per annum.

He said the money raised could be spent on lining the city’s streets with trees, which would improve property values, create better, healthier more desirable places to live, which would improve the return for the landholders when they developed their blocks of land and sold; as well as expediting the goals of the city’s urban forest plan.

The motion passed when Mayor Tanya Richardson used her casting vote after the vote was tied 7-7 with Pearce ward councillor Cate McCullough not in the chamber when the vote was taken.

The former mayors said there had been no consultation with affected land owners, a lack of detail in the report to council and no proper analysis done on the impact of such a significant rate rise.

They said the extra tax on a large group of ratepayers was excessive and not necessary.

“The city’s current budget for trees is $2.3m,’’ they said.

“But the city has the financial capability to increase next year’s tree planting budget, should the council choose to, without raising this extra tax.’’

A city spokesman said as reported at the ordinary council meeting of March 8, 2023, there were 4134 vacant residential properties and 134 vacant commercial properties in the city – with the number subject to regular changes.

Echo News asked how much vacant land the City of Swan owned and if the majority of that vacant land was in the Midland CBD and on Wednesday the spokesman said the city would need more time to collate that information.

Vacant land owned by the city is exempt from paying land tax.

If the motion is not revoked the spokesman said the city would, after May 1, publish a notice of its intention to impose differential rates – including the vacant land differential rate – and invite public submissions.

“At least 21 days after this notice, the council will then consider any submissions and determine the appropriate level of differential rates,’’ he said.

“Any concessions on the proposed vacant land rate will require further council approval as part of the budget adoption process.’’

Echo News asked how many councillors needed to sign a revocation motion before it could be presented to the council for consideration.

“At least one-third of council members, so in the city’s case, five,’’ he said.

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