FEE hikes of more than 50% in some Central Highlands Regional Council town planning charges have been defended as a “cost recovery” measure.
But Queensland Master Builders Association’s Central Queensland regional manager Dennis Bryant believed the move was another kick in the guts for local industry members trying to claw their way out of a slump in the housing market.
“Any fee increase will have to be passed on to the consumer in the builder’s quote and represents a direct cost to the consumer at a time when housing approvals are way down,” Mr Bryant told the Central Queensland News.
“We have bottomed out as far as the building industry is concerned, but it’s going to be a slow climb back, not a fast jump.
“The industry was down 50% of capacity compared to 2008… but in Central Queensland we have had positive increases in the number of housing approvals in the last month that indicates we’ve stabilised and are slowly improving.
“So any little slug like this, and we had one the other day with prices of concrete and steel jumping, all adds up to people saying I really can’t afford to do this.”
CHRC Environment and Planning department head Peter Day said the planning fees were reviewed after development services manager Luke Lankowski identified an income shortfall against the time spent processing code and impact assessment applications on major commercial and industrial, rural developments, lot reconfigurations and material change of use.
“We’re not out to make a profit, we’re just out to cover costs,” Mr Day said.
“Also to encourage developers we didn’t want to increase fees substantially.
“Luke came up with a methodology on how to work it out… and he looked at councils in the area and around the state, and I think our fees were fairly low compared to other local governments.”
Mr Day acknowledged the increased costs would be passed down the line to the consumer, adding the complexities of the Sustainable Planning Act had all but ended the days of “mum and dad” applications.
Consultants using town planners familiar with the current Act were now the norm, adding another layer of cost.
Mr Day stressed the point that whether an application was well constructed or poorly made, the lodgement fee remained the same.
“A well constructed application is able to be effectively addressed with not a lot of time lost going back for information and dragging out the time line,” he said.
“It means an approval or determination is a lot quicker, but we have no fee structure to ask for additional fees – it’s a one-off.
“If it’s a good application it can get assessed quickly, if not it takes months and months of going back and forth to where it can be assessed properly.
“It is very hard to set a fee on those sorts of scenarios and we may lose on some applications but we’ve got to wear that.”
The new fees and charges come into effect from July 1.
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