Council called to show leadership on job protection

INDUSTRY groups have urged Gold Coast City councillors to consider the city’s reliance on property and development during their budget deliberations.

Industry leaders have called on political leadership to revive the Gold Coast development sector, which has been plagued by retrenchments and a 40 per cent plummet in dwelling approvals from 6884 (2007-08) to 4134 (2008-09).

Combined industry groups have asked council to foster job creating opportunities in the upcoming budget, by considering a 35 per cent reduction in residential infrastructure charges and a 65 per cent reduction in non-residential infrastructure charges.

Council CEO Dale Dickson told Gold Coast Business News that an independent study showed council had historically under-charged PIP charges.

“The reality is that, historically PIP charges with water and waste water found via an independent review told us we were under-charging by around 22 per cent against the real cost of delivering the infrastructure related to growth.

“That’s not necessarily what people want to hear, but we need to get on a factual basis as far as a starting point is concerned and acknowledge that an independent organisation with no interest in the outcome has given their view about what we’re charging.”

An industry panel has recommended the rebates only apply to developments where physical work starts within six months of approval and is completed 12 months later.

The protection of jobs and creation of new projects is at the forefront of the agenda for key players from the UDIA, Property Council of Australia (PCA), Master Builders Association, Housing Industry Association and Sustainable Development Gold Coast.

“Property and development influences our wider economy unlike any other Australian city,” says UDIA Gold Coast president Col Dutton.

“There were significant job losses for the Gold Coast industry last year, including 500 apprentices out of work at Christmas. Job losses in our industry start a chain reaction affecting other industries that rely on our strength – from accountants to architects and even corner store owners.

“Industry members cannot obtain finance, interest rates are forecast to rise, and headworks charges continue to threaten the chance of projects going forward – it’s a far cry in activity from the $12 billion the industry turned over in 2007- 08.”

The group wants to encourage job opportunities for the 40,000 people directly linked to development, and tens of thousands who rely on it indirectly, in the coming budget.

PCA president Peter Trathen, says the industry is not interested in a handout, as the rebate will only be used if developments proceed.

“In the interests of the wider city, it means council will encourage more development applications, attract more contributions from developers and, most importantly, create more jobs for locals,” he says.

Dialogue between council officers and the industry group has progressed, with a response expected by the end of the month.

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