GOLD Coast Mayor Tom Tate has backed suggestions that the state government should extend the guaranteed return to GoldLinQ if it means getting the next stage of the project off the ground sooner.

“Right now the private company that did stage one are happy to extend stage two at no cost to the State Government - just give them a longer guaranteed return on their investment,” says Tate, in an address at an Institute of Business Leaders breakfast.

Under the current terms with GoldLinQ, the government has agreed to support the light rail over 15 years.

It has budgeted $100 million a year in support of the major infrastructure project with that outlay to be offset by ticket sales.

The Mayor says the fast-track proposal could see the current guarantee extended to 25 years, which he says would deliver the project possibly delivered at no cost to ratepayers.

However, GoldLinQ failed to confirm if such a plan was on the table.

CEO Phil Mumford tells Gold Coast Business News that GoldLinQ remains interested in building and operating the second stage.

“An exact funding model could be worked out as it was for stage one, if GoldLinQ is approached,” he says.

“Until that time, GoldLinQ is committed to completing the stage one 13km route and seeing trams run passenger services for the Gold Coast.”

Testing for the trams continues with no exact start date disclosed, but Tate says he expects the long-awaited rapid transit system to be finally operating by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, Tate addresses a number of key issues arising this week from the council budget and the new draft city plan.

He says both documents work hand in hand to set the city up for the next 20 years with the city already seeing solid signs of recovery.

“If there is ever a time as a small business to have a go, the Gold Coast is the right time for that.

“When the Gold Coast economy fires the rest of Queensland hums and in the last 18 months the Gold Coast has really started to get its confidence back.”

Tate says simplification is the key to the new town plan which has been shrunk from 538,000 words to just 180,000.

“It’s all about giving certainty, that’s what this new town plan is about. Certainty gives you confidence and confidence will drive investment.”

Tate says the cost of hosting the Commonwealth Games was the main driver of rates rises, accounting for about 3.1 percentage points of the 4.5 per cent increase in rates.

However, he says the city will reap significant benefits from the Games which he sees as the finishing line needed to motivate investment in the city.

“The budget is about managing competing priorities,” Tate says.

“It’s about striking the right balance between today’s priorities and tomorrow’s opportunities.

“Our whole city is going to be on show for the whole world. That’s the crux of it all and that’s what drives this budget. It’s about setting right the priorities.”

Tate also says that the Gold Coast should be able to avoid a post-games slump similar to that which hit Sydney in 2000.

“We are tourism based and, if anything, this is going to accelerate our city further,” he says.

The city council’s economic development department is currently mapping a plan for the city beyond 2018.

In the meantime, Tate says Gold Coast businesses can benefit now from the council’s procurement policy which offers a 15 per cent advantage to local businesses for contracts worth $600,000 or less.

The procurement policy has been in place for 18 months and the council is pushing for the Commonwealth Games organisers to follow suit.

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