Rate rebates for farmers and city folk

What’s needed?

Rate rebates and exemption from stormwater charges are needed by farmers and city folk who conserve water, soil, trees or energy. 


When a farmer or city property owner spend their own money to conserve natural resources they provide a public benefit beyond their property because their actions:


·      Clean up rivers, harbours and the ocean by stopping pollution entering the waters

·      Keep water in the rivers or dams and increase the security of water supply to others

·      Take the load of the main power and water grids and reduce new capital cost for the owners of those grids

·      Reduce the pressure to raise household bills for fellow citizens whose bills pay to use and maintain those systems


There is no financial capacity in government businesses to do all the work needed to conserve our farmland, water and energy resources. Householders and farmers end up paying for government works anyway. 

Why not reward those who accept responsibility for doing what they can on their own property if their works provide a public benefit beyond the property boundaries?

There is no reason for governments to nanny citizens who choose to invest in society by responsible management of our commonly-used, essential natural water and energy resources.   There is every reason to reward citizens who choose to be citizens in this way.  Financial incentives can be far more powerful in sustaining our resources than “Thou shalt not” red tape.  Governments need to step back and allow those who act to get on with it.

How will the rate rebate work?

The rate rebate will recognise, encourage and reward farmers and city folk who conserve and protect our farmland, rivers, water and soil resources.

The rebate will be less than the cost to the farmer or city dweller of their investment and less than the cost to the council or government business if they were to carry out conservation works on council land, roads, and reserves. 

The rebate will apply annually for so long as the farmer or city property owner maintains the works they’ve carried out on their property.

The changes mean no stormwater charges may be made by government water businesses such as Sydney Water where no stormwater leaves a household or commercial property. 

For city homeowners the rebate will be up to a maximum figure of $250 a year for a residential property or up to $2500 a year for a commercial property with rates over $10,000 a year. For farmer fencing costs the rebate will be 100% of the fencing costs and the state government will contribute to these costs.

The rebate and exemption from a stormwater levy by a council or a water authority (such as Sydney Water) will apply to:

·      Fencing off creeks or trees or perennial pastures (100% rebate for the fencing costs)

·      Rain tanks of 10,000 litres or more

·      Off-grid electricity systems for so long as the property owner remains disconnected from electricity or gas

·      Any Fast Track Off-grid project that fits the definition of “Off-grid” - see another blog on this coming soon

·      Any device in the footpath or road verge which harvests stormwater from the street or road to irrigate a tree or the road verge outside the householder’s property


After ten years from introducing the reform the state and local government sector will review the operation and effectiveness of the rate rebate scheme and continue it unless the review finds a clear failure of the reform.


Example of solution to be delivered by rate rebate: 

-       household road verge irrigation devices


Generally, in NSW towns and cities, over 30 times more stormwater falls and is wasted than is imported as mains water.

In Goulburn City, for example (near where the current NSW Minister for Water comes from), over 30 times more water falls and is wasted as stormwater than is imported and sold as mains water.  Goulburn gets hot and dry.  Water is often scarce.  Trees in the road verges grow slowly, or not at all, or die from lack of water which, when it rains, runs down the road drains a couple of dozen centimetres away from the neglected, dying trees and road verges. 

Further west the city of Broken Hill has almost run out of water as the rivers from which water is pumped have run dry.  Imagine how much healthier that city's trees would be if the water that does fall on the roofs and streets was kept to irrigate trees and provide water for the houses; instead, its wasted.

A rate rebate for householders who install a device to capture road water to irrigate street trees would increase tree growth, increase property values, cool the street, and cut air con bills for the householders, reduce the use of mains water for gardening, cut water bills, increase the city’s security of water supply.   

There are several road irrigation products on the market which citizens can install, some costing less than a hundred dollars to buy and install (see this two minute video of what we did in Chippendale in 2008 when we installed at our own cost leaky drains in the road verges, http://sustainablechippendale.com/how-to-videos/2013/3/26/how-to-become-an-urban-farmer-making-a-leaky-drain.html), and others costing a couple of thousand dollars to buy and install.   

In 2008 we householders installed cheap leaky drains in our Chippendale road gardens at a once-off total cost to us of $300 for over 20 households. The drains save over 4 million litres of stormwater a year to irrigate the road verges; that’s a total saving of over 28 million litres since 2008.  BUT: despite these savings, each year the local and state government double-dip into these householders’ pockets:


·      Sydney Council imposes a stormwater environmental levy on each household in its area, including Chippendale;

·      Sydney Water imposes a stormwater environmental levy on the same households, including Chippendale.


At Newtown, in The Kylie Off-grid Project, in Marrickville Council’s area, we’re installing a $2400 road verge irrigation device.  The householder, Kylie Ahern, is paying for and installing it (with council approval).  It’s called a ‘Streetgarden’ and is something I’ve designed and the council has agreed with Ms Ahern that she may trial. 


But, again, Marrickville Council and Sydney Water will offer Ms Ahern no rate rebate or exemption from their two stormwater levies.