At a special council meeting on the 28th of November 2016, council approved $1.5 million to be contributed towards the purchase of Lot 14 next to the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary. This is subject to the State government funding the balance. The Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax (MRIT) is one way the State government can fund ‘their’ portion.
The MRIT “is a special purpose tax used to finance the cost of providing land for roads, open spaces, parks and similar public facilities”. It has existed since 1959.
The MRIT is payable in addition to land tax, but land which is not subject to land tax, such as a primary residence, doesn’t pay MRIT. The MRIT rate sits at 0.14 cents for every dollar of the aggregated taxable value of land in excess of $300,000. So if the aggregated value of land subject to this tax was $500,000, a landowner would pay $280 per annum in MRIT. At $1,000,000 the landowner would pay $980.
The 2015/16 annual report for the West Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) shows the MRIT brought in $97,897,000 that year. The Metropolitan Region Improvement Fund, which holds the proceeds from the MRIT, sits at a healthy $292,777,000. The MRIT covers 30 metropolitan local districts, of which Bayswater is one.
I acknowledge the inherent shortcomings of this, but in the absence of any break down being provided by the Department of Finance or the WAPC, I will use a simple average to calculate what the residents of the City of Bayswater may have contributed; $3,263,233 per annum and $9,759,233 of the current balance.
‘The case for retaining the metropolitan region improvement tax’ is a 2007 document published by the WAPC and argues very strongly for this tax to continue.
“The improvement fund has been used to buy back Swan River foreshores, to protect the face of the Darling scarp, to implement the Bush Forever program, to progressively acquire land for long term transport corridors and to secure essential sites for infrastructure.”
It is clear, again, that environmental considerations are promoted as something the MRIT funds can be used for. For this reason I would like to see the MRIT funds be used to part-fund the purchase of the land next to the Eric Singleton Bird Sanctuary. This is especially so now land adjoining the subject site has recently been reclassified from ‘Multiple Use’ to ‘Resource Enhancement’ by the Department of Parks & Wildlife (DPaW).
DPaW state that Resource Enhancement are “wetlands which may have been partially modified but still support substantial ecological attributes and functions”. “The ultimate objective is to manage, restore and protect towards improving their conservation value. These wetlands have the potential to be restored to Conservation category.”
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) claim “The EPA urges that all reasonable measures are taken to minimise the potential impacts on Resource Enhancement wetlands and appropriate buffers. These wetlands have the potential to be restored to Conservation category, and rehabilitation is encouraged.”
Whilst no one enjoys paying tax, the more I have researched the MRIT the more I appreciate the benefits and value it can bring. I also believe the WAPC have been good custodians of the fund. I just ask that some of the funds are now spent within the City of Bayswater, because to date I haven’t been able to find any instances of that happening.
Power to the people.
(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater)