Council's budget excuse flawed
THE MAN who tried to get the $300 million multi-housing Della Vista Lakes estate up and running in Granville says: “Look to Bundaberg if you want to get something done in reasonable time at a reasonable cost.”
Shane Stewart, who fought for three-and-a-half years to get Della Vista approved – and it wasn’t – said it took him just seven months to take a Bundaberg development from buying the land to selling the finished allotments.
“I absolutely disagree with Mayor Mick Kruger that the development slowdown on the Fraser Coast has more to do with developers’ inability to gain financing from the banks due to the Global Economic Crisis,” Mr Stewart said yesterday.
“Della Vista Lakes project was a 10-15 year project. Just because the Global Financial Crisis has caused a dip in the housing market doesn’t mean you should stop your approval process. It has to be in place for the recovery – especially given the lag time it takes to get an approval from the Fraser Coast council.”
The council’s December vote against Della Vista Lakes translates into a potential loss of $10 million in infrastructure charges that would have gone to creating a more liveable, user-friendly environment in Maryborough.
The Chronicle’s phones rang hot yesterday with local business people congratulating the newspaper on the stories and editorials in recent months questioning the council’s attitude and service delivery record to the development industry and small business operators either trying to get started or expand.
“This is becoming a ghost town because of this council,” said one small-businessman, who added he couldn’t be named “because the council will make sure they make my business life hell”.
Mr Kruger’s defence that “a comparison of development activity in other Queensland councils shows that they are also experiencing a similar slowdown in development activity” continues to be pulled apart by figures the Chronicle is obtaining.
Ipswich City Council’s budget for trunk infrastructure revenue from developers for 2009/2010 is $17.734 million and as at January 31 this year, the council had collected $13.802 million.
“Based on the current year-to-date figure, there will not be a shortfall in Ipswich,” planning and development committee chairman councillor Paul Tully said yesterday.
And Bundaberg council has already collected almost $1.4 million of its infrastructure budget of just under $5.3 million.
“I expect that by the end of June 2010 the to-date figures will closely reflect budgeted amounts, due to infrastructure charges not being paid yet on at least one or more significant projects,” said Andrew Fulton, Bundaberg’s director of planning and development services.
South Burnett Mayor David Carter says his council is only about three per cent down to date on its developer-funded infrastructure budget of $787,000. “We expect to bring in $762,000 of it by the end of the financial year.”
In early December the Fraser Coast council was down by an estimated 96 per cent ($300,000 collected from its $7.7 million budget) – but in spite of the Chronicle asking CEO Andrew Brien, twice, to provide the actual collection figure to date, he has not.
Former Hervey Bay council town planner Doug Mackay said that when drawing up the budget, council would have made an assumption about the amount of infrastructure contributions expected in 2009/2010.
“This is usually done on the basis of the previous year’s actual income and an assessment of the likely economic conditions for the next 12 months,” he said.
With about $660,000 collected in 2008/2009 from a budget of just over $2.5 million, “it would have been a brave call in May 2009 to assume that it would increase much in 2009/10”.
“Without development, no infrastructure contributions flow through to council. Without these contributions, all capital works have to be funded instead by rates, grants, loans and fees and so on. At this rate it will take a long time for council to fill up its reserves to get things done.”