Infrastructure charges probe welcomed
COUNCILLOR Pat Eastwood has always been supportive of helping businesses survive, rather than destroying them.
And as Livingstone Shire councillors prepare to discuss a report next month on an internal review of infrastructure charges, Cr Eastwood can also draw on his own personal experiences if the issue of coronavirus impacts on local businesses comes up.
Cr Eastwood has owned and operated Capricorn Coast Learn 2 Surf for the past 12 years, and in that time nothing has compared to the “wipeout” that COVID-19 has delivered.
“Everything that I had on the books has been cancelled,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve got a booking until October now.
“We’re not even allowed to run lessons.”
Cr Eastwood has also been a chaplain at Yeppoon State High School for the past 17 years, but tough economic times has seen his hours in that role reduced.
The council’s review of infrastructure charges - which could determine the fate of some businesses already facing hefty bills and also future growth in the shire - started before coronavirus took hold.
Infrastructure charges are levied as part of the development assessment process to contribute to the provision of essential trunk infrastructure required to service new development.
Trunk infrastructure is the main infrastructure such as water mains or higher order roads.
Cr Eastwood said while he believed COVID-19 would have to be discussed as part of the review, there were other factors that would complicate things.
“On the other hand, what we’ve got to be aware of, is other businesses who have paid charges (in the past),” he said.
“It is a really difficult one because you need to make sure that you’re fair across the board.”
Deputy mayor Cr Adam Belot said the council needed to look beyond the past and be “flexible and nimble” as part of this review.
“If ever there was a time to use the word unprecedented, that is the times we’re finding ourselves in now,” Cr Belot said.
“We certainly need to be having a good hard look at those infrastructure charges.
“And that may mean being prepared to acknowledge that while we may have had set fees 10 years ago, five years ago, and one might feel you have to be consistent and apply those forever and a day, the reality is, as the financial environment changes around us to the extent that we’ve seen with COVID-19, we have to be prepared to look pragmatically at it.
“And that means to assess things on how they are currently.
“It would be irresponsible to just purely say, well that’s how they (charges) have been set in the past, it would be unfair to change them because there would be an advantage to whoever is the recipient of that change.
“The reality is, businesses are struggling and they will struggle to survive, they will struggle to reopen.
“So being competitive to match the complexities of the economy that we face now is essential for local government to consider.”
Mayor Andy Ireland had previously said as part of an overall review “everything needs to be on the table and considered.”
One business sweating on the outcome of the review is Bondoola’s Savannah Park Retreat, whose owners have said they can’t afford a $63,700 infrastructure charges bill.