Cr Bob Sinclair has called for Cobar Shire Council to rethink its policy for selling rural blocks of land for unpaid rates.
The sale of land for unpaid rates and the problems it was causing rural landowners was discussed at the April Ordinary Council Meeting on Thursday.
Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko advised councillors under the Local Government Act if a property has unpaid rates on it for a minimum of five years, council can then chose to sell the land to recover the unpaid amount.
Mr Vlatko said council must follow due process which is to write to the owner several times notifying them of their intent to sell, gazette it and advertise that the land will be sold by public auction.
He said council also has a procedural policy which recommends Council writes to the owners of the adjoining properties to advise them of the intended sale.
Mr Vlatko said the intent of the sale is to recover outstanding rates and, if there is any profit from the sale, it’s not retained by council, but goes to the owner or their estate.
Cr Sinclair said he understood that council needed to follow due process however he felt that rural landowners were put at a disadvantage over town ratepayers.
He said following sales in previous years, there have been cases where the rural land has been bought up by a person or business who has on-sold the land to other people.
In some circumstances, Cr Sinclair said complete strangers or even goat poachers could legally be occupying land in the middle of a local landowner’s property.
“All of a sudden we end up with a lot of problems with our rural ratepayers.
“And we’ve got to remember they are ratepayers,” Cr Sinclair said.
“Would we allow this to happen in the environ of Cobar?
“Would we sell a block of land in Cobar that didn’t have access? Would we sell a block in town that hasn’t been surveyed?”
He used the example of the deep blocks of land in Bathurst Street and questioned if council would allow one of those blocks to be subdivided and the back block to be then on-sold without it having any access to it.
Cr Sinclair called for further discussion on the matter during a council workshop.