Northern Midlands Council's fight to receive ex gratia rates from Launceston Airport will go before the Federal Court in the coming months, but the council concedes a finding in its favour might not be the end of the matter.
The council claims it could be owed up to $2 million in ex gratia rates, stemming from the dispute with the airport which started in 2013 and became public in 2015.
A date was yet to be set for the hearing, but documents were filed in the court by the council, the Commonwealth and Launceston Airport in July last year.
The hearings are likely to be held in the first half of this year.
More on the long-running Northern Midlands v Launceston Airport rates dispute:
- May, 2015: Council demands airport pay rates
- December 2015: Prime Minister's Office to hear rates dispute
- December, 2015: Launceston Airport responds to rates debate
- May, 2016: Airport proposes MOU with Northern Midlands Council
- June, 2016: Xenophon election ads target Launceston Airport
- June, 2016: Rates dispute still unresolved
- February, 2017: Council to meet with infrastructure minister over airport rates
- April, 2017: Rates dispute to go to COAG
- April, 2017: Council says $1.35 million owing in airport rates
- July, 2018: Infrastructure Department considers rates dispute 'settled'
Arguments centre on a clause which sets out which areas of the airport grounds the operator gains business from, and whether it should pay rates on these areas.
Launceston Airport claims it is paying rates in line with "independent valuations commissioned by the Federal Government", but the council claims the airport should be paying ex gratia rates set by the Tasmanian Valuer General as set out in its airport lease.
Mayor Mary Knowles said even if the council was successful in the Federal Court, it would require support from the Commonwealth Government to force the airport to pay the ex gratia rates.
"We would encourage politicians to support us, in particular if this goes our way, because we cannot demand them to pay their rates. We cannot claim rates from Commonwealth property," she said.
"No other ratepayer is able to not pay their rates, then dispute it. Once you pay the rates, then you can dispute it.
"Initially everybody was valued by the Tasmanian Valuer General - that's what we declare as fair.
"These rates make a big difference when we're planning and paying for projects in the community."
Previous attempts at mediation failed to resolve the dispute.
The council has also met with the Prime Minister's Office, Local Government Minister and Infrastructure Minister in the past three years, but the Commonwealth has found neither the airport or federal government have an obligation to pay rates.
Cr Knowles and Northern Midlands general manager Des Jenning recently met with Labor Member for Lyons Brian Mitchell, who reaffirmed his support of the council's attempt to receive the ex gratia rates.
Mr Lyons said he would "continue to strongly advocate for this with whoever forms government following the May election".
The council claims the rates bill grows by $285,000 per year.
Launceston Airport general manager Paul Hodgen said that because the federal government was the airport's "landlord" and it sits on Commonwealth land, the federal government's valuation should be relied upon.
"The Commonwealth has also previously noted that it considers us compliant with our obligation," he said.
"We’re looking forward to this protracted dispute being resolved once it’s heard in the Federal Court in the coming months."
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