Mayor Jack Dempsey
Mayor Jack Dempsey

New measures designed to help build region

ROME wasn’t built in a day and neither was Bundaberg.

The Building Bundaberg Region initiative put forward by the Bundaberg regional Council at the Budget meeting on Tuesday, is aimed at relieving pressure on local projects and safeguarding development in the region post-pandemic.

The multimillion-dollar suite of measures to support construction, jobs and economic development will see fees waived for extension applications and discounts provided to some infrastructure charges, amid a range of other changes.

Mayor Jack Dempsey said the package would stimulate the local economy after COVID-19.

“Building and construction are the engines of economic growth,” Mr Dempsey said.

“The flow-on benefits are massive, from builders through to tradies, suppliers, service providers and the retail sector.

“The construction sector creates jobs and supports employment in other areas.”

Building Bundaberg Region extends the time frame for completion of developments already incentivised under the previous Open for Development scheme by two years, to the end of June 2022.

Mr Dempsey said there was currently about 40 projects which may be difficult to complete by June 2020 given COVID-19 impacts.

“Some extension requests have already been received,” he said.

“Giving a blanket extension to these shovel-ready developments will provide a bank of incentivised projects that can be taken up relatively quickly.”

Other measures include:

  • Moratorium on automatic increases to levied charges;
  • 100 per cent discount on infrastructure charges (to a maximum of $1 million) for material change-of-use developments in the Bundaberg CBD and town centres of Bargara, Childers, Gin Gin, Woodgate, Moore Park and Burnett Heads (areas to be mapped); also uses defined as a “rural activity” in the Planning Scheme, including intensive horticulture, rural industries, aquaculture, winery and intensive animal industry uses
  • Permanent reductions to infrastructure charges for sectors including rural industries and nature-based tourism
  • 50 per cent discount on infrastructure charges (to a maximum of $1 million) for material change-of-use development for all other uses.

“This broadens the previous policy, which only incentivised certain land uses,” Mr Dempsey said.

“Covering all land uses will provide greater support for all sectors of the local economy looking to expand or start new business.

“With regards to housing it will help to address the ongoing tight rental market and deliver different housing types.”

Ongoing industry support measures include:

  • 50-100 per cent discount on fees and charges for not-for-profit organisations;
  • Free pre-lodgement meeting service;
  • Fast-tracked assessment for low complexity applications
  • Timely assessment of all other development applications;
  • Electronic lodgement of applications;
  • Planning Scheme reduced levels of assessment and typically no application requirements for changes of use in existing commercial centres, dual occupancy development and industrial uses;
  • Reduced carparking rates for residential development in the Bundaberg CBD and business activities in the Bundaberg CBD and Childers and Gin Gin town centres
  • Rates relief on undeveloped lots.

Developers receive a 40 per cent reduction in their valuation, with no minimum general rate until the parcel is developed or ownership changes.

Council calculates the general rate using the reduced valuation.

Mr Dempsey said elements of the package had been designed following consultation with industry, including a working group which comprised representatives from council and the UDIA.

Council considered offering housing construction grants for new home construction but concluded this would deliver minimal benefit while State and Federal Government schemes are offering $45,000 in combined grants.

“Our stimulus package targets other areas of the construction industry such as commercial and industrial sites and unit development to complement the state and federal measures,” he said.