Matt Burnett, mayoral candidate 2016
Matt Burnett, mayoral candidate 2016

Mayor Burnett to stop business rort by lowering charges

PLEAS from business owners to cut infrastructure charges and in turn make opening a shop, restaurant or cafe easier appear to have been heard.

At the council's general meeting yesterday, the new Gladstone Regional Council mayor Matt Burnett asked the director of engineering services for a report into how to reduce infrastructure charges to promote small business.

Cr Burnett said some of the current charges were unfair and this change was one of the five issues on his campaign hit list.

"Why on earth are we charging about $20,000 to change one business to another on the same block," he said.

"Charging that money doesn't support business growth and the last thing we need is people running out of town because of infrastructure charges."

The request comes after the council's chief executive officer Stuart Randle said in February that it wouldn't make sense to offer infrastructure discounts at a time when the city was growing faster than other regions.

"At the moment our community is growing the fastest in the state," he said at the time.

"We can't hand out discounts willy-nilly. Either the people who directly benefit from the services pay or everyone pays (through rates or reduced services)."

But yesterday Cr Burnett said the council would reduce infrastructure charges, but wouldn't pre-empt who would pick up the tab.

"There will be effects to the budget but at the end of the day should (the council) be collecting these charges anyway if they are unfair?" he said.

He made one point very clear, the reduction would be to stimulate business growth and not help develop more housing estates. "I am not talking about green field sites. This is about making it easier for businesses," he said. Green field sites had a $28,000 cap on infrastructure charges which were often below what it cost the council to develop the site.

"Subdivisions like Riverstone Rise and developments in Calliope have a cost for providing infrastructure that is more than what we get," he said. He expected the report would be released in a few months.

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