John Darley, Advance SA MLC (5AA 11.20-11.27) Possible changes to the Local Government Act / Property valuations / Valuer-General correcting relativity of valuations
(Byner: Now, we know that the rate capping legislation has been knocked on the head by both the Opposition and the crossbenchers, so it isn’t going to happen. But I’ve had some communication from Frank Pangallo from SA-BEST and others that there are going to be some changes, and quite significant ones, to the Local Government Act. Because I think we’ve seen plenty of examples where there just doesn’t seem to be the scrutiny on Councils and their spending that exists elsewhere in both State and Federal Parliament. To find out the latest, let’s talk to Advance SA’s John Darley … we understand that there’s a Bill which is going to be presented to the Parliament very soon about this. What’s your knowledge on it?)
None … I’m not aware of it at all. Until the Bill comes to us, I’m not aware of it.
(Byner: Is that right? … I’ve been saying to both Labor and Frank Pangallo we need some detail about what you plan to do, how you propose to change the Act, how are you going to make things fairer, how are you going to make Councils more accountable, because as Mark Brindle pointed out, when there was legislation over two decades ago for Councils to go out and consult, they went to their lawyers to find out how they could keep doing what they’re doing without changing too much. So the goodwill … or spirit … that was supposed to be adhered to was not. So I’m very interested to hear about this matter. The other thing I need to ask you about is the business of property values. Because we’re seeing a lot of stories in the press across Australia that property values are going down but of course in SA they appear to be going north and there’d be a lot of people who want to do something about objecting to the values given to them by the Valuer-General. What’s your latest feedback on that?)
… the latest information I have on that is that whilst property values in general are not dropping in South Australia, they’re not increasing at the same rate as they did before. Now what … we have at the moment is a situation where the Valuer-General is embarking on a revaluation initiative where she’s correcting the relativity of valuations between properties and this is a … fairly strange situation because I was talking to the Premier the other day and one of the focus points will be the City of Adelaide with the commercial-industrial properties … where the Valuer-General admitted to the Executive Director of the Property Council that some property values could increase 100 per cent. Now, if that happens, there’s going to be real problems … what I have established is that the Valuer-General’s going to carry out this work over three years and I made the point repeatedly if that happens, well then the Valuer-General will be in breach of the Valuation of Land Act because if they increase the commercial-industrial properties of a third of the properties in the City of Adelaide in one year and a third the next year and a third the year after, they are not going to be relative to one another and as I suggested … if that happens, I will be advising any property owner that contacts me to have a look at … if their property valuation has increased significantly, have a look at another property in an area of Adelaide that hasn’t been increased and lodge an objection and you will win.
(Byner: We’ve had some … objections that have won where the value’s come back $50,000. That’s a lot of money.)
Forty per cent of all objections are upheld.
(Byner: Forty per cent.)
Yeah. Now at the present time there’s an astoundingly low rate of objections.
(Byner: Why would that be, do you think?)
Well it may be that … people think that the valuations are okay or they’re happy with the rates they’re paying. But … I can tell you a number of people who have contacted me are certainly not happy with the situation and have told me their valuations are over-valued and I’ve agreed with that, having looked at them.
(Byner: … so they’ve objected?)
(Byner: And how long does that take? Or how long should it take?)
How long’s a piece of string? In my day we used to say … when I was Valuer-General the … regional valuers had to report on a … weekly basis by exception if they had objections outstanding more than one month. But we know now that objections can drift on for months.
(Byner: So again … when you object … you’re saying it could be any time that they take. What do you have to do? Do you have to provide anything or is it up to them?)
No, all you have to do, and this was following a discussion I had with the late Justice Wells many years ago he said all you need to do to object is to write a simple letter saying you object because you consider the valuation to be too high … following that, what the … procedure of the Valuer-General has been that first of all, if you contact the valuation hotline, you can ask for details of sales evidence that have been used in making your valuation … from which you can have a look at those and see if you’ve got a legitimate complaint. But in any case, if an objection is disallowed, the Valuer-General provides two or three sales of properties that they used in making the valuation.
(Byner: All right … if you’re billed on the value that you’re having changed, what happens on that? Because if the valuation’s dropped and you’re billed on a higher number, do you get a refund? What do they do?)
… the objection is retrospective and any change is to be retrospective … you could have an objection that’s disallowed and then the objector decides to go to SACAT … let’s assume it took a year, hopefully it doesn’t take that long, but in any case, any change made by SACAT would be retrospective.
(Byner: … John, give your office number because I know a lot of people might need your help if they want to object.)
(Byner: … I thought it was interesting and important to get John on this morning because the fact of the matter is that there are many taxes and charges that you have to pay, sewerage levy is one and then it goes NRM and a whole lot of other stuff, all based on values either commercially or residentially. So these things can have a profound effect on how much tax you pay. So don’t think that they’ve got you beat. You can object and that’s interesting … 40 per cent … have had their values dropped.)