TOO MUCH: Kevin Pickersgill is battling the council over infrastructure costs associated with his development on George Street, next to Villa Capri.
TOO MUCH: Kevin Pickersgill is battling the council over infrastructure costs associated with his development on George Street, next to Villa Capri. Chris Ison Rokcdevelopment

Infrastructure charges threaten to drive business elsewhere

AN INFRASTRUCTURE charge of almost half a million dollars may be enough for Kevin Pickersgill to take his multi-million dollar development elsewhere.

The Central Highlands councillor owns Villa Capri and was "gob-smacked" to see the $429,000 charge for an upgrade to the hotel, which cost him $22,000 in infrastructure charges when he built the original 37 rooms in 2003.

The five-star upgrade is planned over four neighbouring blocks on George St and will include 62 rooms, a bar, coffee shop, lap pool, function rooms and a gym.

Kevin urged council to look at the big picture when it came to development.

"If these sort of costs have to be incurred by developers this town is going to die because there will be no more development," he said.

"If they were to relax their position they may lose money initially, but just getting those developments to happen in your region I think is absolutely critical."

Kevin is pushing for a policy change in Rockhampton, and said the mayor's proposal to push back infrastructure charges would certainly help.

But he does not solely blame the local council.

"I know councils probably state-wide and Australia-wide are grappling with this very same situation," he said.

"The visionary councils, what they're doing now is they're reducing the infrastructure costs ... (they) are going to be standing strong at the end of this with a strong economy.

"I've said this to council previously, that long-term gain on a development like this far outweighs the short-term pain."

In August, Kevin made a deputation to the Planning and Development Committee to have the charges reduced, but in a continuing council meeting later that month it was decided the charges would remain unchanged.

"We'd love to do this, but this infrastructure cost will stifle us," Kevin said.

"I'd say we'd have to stop this project, and probably go looking elsewhere."

In the next 20 years Kevin said council would stand to make $2 million in charges, based on a 5% increase, with $10 million going towards opportunities for local service providers and $12 million for wages.

He also said the state government's 40% subsidy cut did not mean council had to increase infrastructure charges to these amounts.

"I can understand everyone needs to pay rates … (but) this is purely and simply a money grab from council," he said.

Kevin said he expected an increase, but didn't understand how council could justify such a rise.

The give and take:

Glen Dobinson, from Dobinson Springs and Suspension, was charged more than $68,000 to build a new shed at his business. Glen said if charges continued to rise he would be forced to move his business to Thailand.

Geoff Trewin, from Rocky Harley-Davidson, was charged $81,567 to refurbish his 80-year-old building and put in a coffee shop. He said he may be forced to lose staff.



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