STATE opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek says the Gold Coast could lose much of its building labour force to surrounding regions if the state doesn’t address the city’s struggling construction sector.

Citing State Government and Gold Coast City Council (GCCC)-imposed development costs as the largest ongoing factor in the building industry’s sluggish recovery, Langbroek says there is an exodus of tradesman flocking north to find work.

“There is real frustration within the development industry because at the moment they just don’t have the jobs (on the Gold Coast) and they’re going elsewhere,” he says.

“I’m very concerned as I drive up the M1 and many other Gold Coasters will see it as well. There is literally a sea of tradies in utes going to Ipswich or going to the southern suburbs of Brisbane because there just isn’t the work here at the moment.”

As part of its infrastructure task force, the Bligh Government this morning announced proposed legislative changes including setting maximum infrastructure charges for residential developments; taking responsibility for determining infrastructure charges off local councils; and the ability to defer payment of infrastructure charges.

Speaking at a Sustainable Development Gold Coast Inc breakfast today at The Marriott, Langbroek cited a lack of detail and labelled the proposed changes as ‘magic pudding’.

“I’m not going to make promises that cost big money as you can see the government has come up with something that I’m supposed to match, but I will tell you that I’m absolutely committed to growth,” he says.

“Only a couple of weeks ago we saw the statistics that interstate migration to Queensland is the lowest since 1984. When we see that housing starts are at a fraction of what they should be or what they have been in previous years then clearly something is happening in this industry and the government needs to get in there and either help them with regulation or help them with finances.

“Obviously people in this industry want some more certainty, everyone wants to have a sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren but we also need to make sure that the charges that are being levied on developers are moderated.”

Langbroek says the opposition plans to make an announcement in the next few weeks that will ‘clearly show that we’re determined to get the state open for business again’.

The lack of power awarded to the Gold Coast mayor was also a key discussion point at the at today’s conference.

Despite having more than 700,000 residents, the GCCC’s governance structure falls under the Local Government Act, which awards the city mayor little power in comparison to Brisbane counterpart Campbell Newman.

While Sustainable Development GC is calling for a governance structure overhaul, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) is calling for the GCCC to introduce the flagged changes immediately and potentially lower the cost of housing in the city before July 2011.

“Developers have to pay an average of $32,500 per allotment for infrastructure charges on the Gold Coast,” says UDIA Gold Coast president Steve Harrison.

“There’s the potential that the review will reduce that figure by $5,000-$10,000, which is very encouraging and could provide the kick start the city’s economy desperately needs.

“But with seven-months between now and July, there’s the possibility developers will wait until then before proceeding with projects. This will cost jobs, and cost the 2011-12 city budget millions in development funds.

“Gold Coast City Council was the first and only council in Queensland to adopt the current infrastructure charges regime, and this is their opportunity to take the lead again and pre-empt the proposed program.”

Meanwhile, Council will vote on Monday to offer $1.8 million in discounts for new Gold Coast developments. The incentive is in addition to $2.2 million already contributed to local development.

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