Govt cancels land sell-off

THE State Government appears to have performed a stunning back flip on its highly criticised decision to auction state-owned vacant housing lots in Emerald and apparently Blackwater at a time when an affordable housing crisis threatens to cripple vital services in mining communities.

In a dramatic move yesterday, a Department of Education and Training spokeswoman said the government had reviewed the advertised auction of 11 blocks in Emerald and subsequently cancelled it.

"They will not be sold and a further needs analysis will be undertaken," the spokeswoman said.

The move comes on the back of widespread criticism from the Central Highlands mayor, as well as the State Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson, who labelled the decision to sell the land a complete policy failure.

Before the cancellation, Central Highlands Mayor Peter Maguire questioned the state's resolve to address housing woes in mining communities, asking why state housing would be sold when teachers, doctors and police officers were directly impacted by the lack of it.

"We've got the police researching fly in, fly out options because they can't afford to house them in our communities," Cr Maguire said.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Cedric Marshall yesterday confirmed four Moranbah houses would be handed back to the State Government when replacement housing for council workers was completed.

The move was in response to a rent hike from $600 a week to $1100 a week for houses leased from the State Government's Department of Communities and Housing.

"It's up to the government what happens to those houses, but I imagine they will be going up to tender or auction when they are handed back," Cr Marshall said.

No government representative confirmed what would happen to the Moranbah houses.

Last Friday Cr Maguire unleashed a barrage of criticism on the State Government following an advertisement in the Central Queensland News detailing the auction of the 11 Emerald blocks.

"On the same day that we have the Minister for Housing saying the government is committed to easing housing pressures in mining communities, we've got advertising about the auction of 11 residential blocks that are state-owned," Cr Maguire said.

On Monday, Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson echoed the Mayors' criticisms, accusing the government of extending its support of FIFO to government workforces.

"They have no rent-subsidy housing to help maintain non-mine workforces and are now selling their own housing lots despite the fact that frontline government services are already constrained by a lack of housing."

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