Tasmanian Government Seeks to Circumvent High Court Decision by Exempting Marine Farms from Paying Council Rates

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Tasmanian Government Seeks to Circumvent High Court Decision by Exempting Marine Farms from Paying Council Rates

Last year, the High Court unanimously dismissed the appeal in Coverdale v West Coast Council [2016] HCA 15 (14 April 2016) that sought to overturn a decision that made marine leases subject to local council rates. The Court held that pursuant to the definition of ‘land’ in s 11 of the Valuation of Land Act 2001 (Tas), land was intended to include the seabed and associated waters. The word ‘including’ under s 11(1) was said to create an ambiguity as to whether it excluded any unlisted categories from being considered ‘land’. Ultimately, reasoned through statutory interpretation of the background, ordinary meaning, and intentions underpinning the Act, the Court concluded the legislative intention to include the seabed and associated waters as vulnerable to rate levies.

The State Government has introduced to Local Government Amendment (Rates) Bill 2017 (Tas) to exempt marine farms from paying council rates in a direct response to last year’s High Court decision. The Government stated a key reason behind the amendments was to exempt all marine farms from charges due to the inequitable nature the High Court decision has had on farms. The decision affects those located inside local government boundaries whilst those outside are exempt. The Court’s decision thus effectively influences market equity between farms. The Bill remains before the Legislative Council.

 

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