The chair of Gold Coast City Council’s sustainable futures committee Cr Peter Young says his department is responding to issues facing the region’s once abundant construction industry. This included a $9 million stimulus package. Young now plans to take the initiative further by lobbying financiers and interstate investors to pump capital into the next growth phase of our city.

WITH these difficult times there has been a strong and critical focus on the charges that council applies to development to assist funding infrastructure.

Without appropriate investment in infrastructure we simply won’t have a product (city) that people will want to come to and invest in. By the same token, if we charge any sector too much for the provision of infrastructure – whether its developers or the general ratepayer – we will impact on the ability to pay and further impact on its provision.

Obviously, financing of infrastructure such as roads, storm water, water and wastewater and recreational facilities is critical and council has been sensitive to this issue.

In September 2009, council introduced a special (state-sanctioned) ‘emergency provision’ to allow lower infrastructure charges to be applied across the board.

Importantly, it then embarked on a process of genuine consultation with key stakeholders from the sector with a view to identifying additional short term financial measures that might help the industry.

In April, a subsidy program was introduced, which both the industry and council believe will provide some measure of genuine stimulus to the market. The key issue here, in my opinion, has been the collective goodwill that has developed and been applied to the negotiation process.

This includes the new $4 million subsidy negotiated with the development industry which will provide up to 50 per cent subsidy for short term projects. Applications opened on April 27 and the 36 successful applicants have now been advised.

There is, through such measures and approaches, the recognition that we are all in this together and that collaboratively we stand the best chance for success.

Like the industry, central to the infrastructure issue for council is its (or the ratepayers) capacity to pay. Brisbane Council, for example, receives around 70 per cent of its income from commercial rates, but the Gold Coast City Council receives just 30 per cent of its rate income from the commercial sector.

This places a great deal of sensitivity around issues such as raising funds for and subsidising the financing of infrastructure. We have few options – councils basically have just one source of income (rates), unlike (as the Henry review made clear) federal and state governments that impose about 135 various taxes.

With such constraints on our council and our main economic sector, what I have proposed is the development of a plan for both council and the development sector to jointly lobby the finance sector ‘kings’ in Sydney and Melbourne, to educate and encourage them to realise that the city is maturing, that it is solid, and that it has a great future.

The future for the Gold Coast should be approached with a great deal of optimism and energy.

We have, for example, three massive public projects underway – being the Gold Coast Stadium, the Gold Coast Hospital at Parklands, and the light rail. The significance of each of these to contribute individually should not be underestimated. Collectively, however, they provide us a wonderful platform for the transformation of the city.

I am particularly focused on the light rail project and the increased and enhanced development and re-development opportunities that this provides to us. Now of course we are also contenders for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Never before has this city been presented with such a significant opportunity to transform – not only in the form of development and infrastructure, but in the hearts and minds of our community as proud Gold Coasters.

A strong, financially secure, visionary and community focused council is central to realising these opportunities. Our council certainly isn’t perfect but it is our government. It doesn’t belong to anyone else, and it’s up to all of us to make sure it is the best possible.

There’s a challenge we should all approach positively.

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