Gunnedah Shire Council is reviewing its fees and charges for new developments and after concerns that excessively high fees are restricting future growth and development.
Two notices of motion were raised at Gunnedah’s September council meeting – the first related to headworks charges.
Motion author deputy mayor Rob Hooke said it involved three parts: that [council] staff review the current fees and charges specifically targeting headwork charges with a view to ensuring these fees are not substantially greater than those of neighbouring councils; that the methodology of calculating headwork charges be reviewed to ensure that headwork charges are not substantially greater than those of neighbouring councils, and that a report be prepared for the November ordinary meeting of council.
Cr Hooke said motion sought to understand “what levers may be pulled” with a view to “modulate” the current charges imposed on new developments.
The motion was supported by fellow councillor Rob Hoddle who feared Gunnedah may be losing business to its near neighbours.
“The concern we all have is the cost of doing business in Gunnedah – are we competitive or not?” he asked.
“It seems we may be losing the edge on Tamworth [which] seems to be growing at an enormous rate.
“I’ve heard stories we may be losing some [businesses], that really concerns me because our future is servicing agriculture and mining and we need to do it efficiently and at the best price.”
Councillor Ann Luke initially disagreed with the word “substantially” in the motion and suggested an amendment but this was later withdrawn.
When the motion was put to a vote before the elected members, Cr Luke abstained from voting, but the motion was carried with a majority vote.
A separate notice of motion, this time authored by councillor Colleen Fuller, was also raised at the same council meeting.
This motion requested the creation of an industrial development incentive program in Gunnedah, similar to the existing Business Partner Program. It was initially proposed the new program would be supported by a funding pool of $500,000 but this later omitted through an amendment.
A new amended, three-part motion, which was agreed to by councillors, requested a report be brought back to council that examines the efficacy of the Business Partner Program in its current form at delivering increased economic growth in Gunnedah.
The report will also examine whether an increase to the funding for the Business Partner Program would be an effective driver of increased development activity in the Gunnedah shire and in the competitive advantage of doing business in Gunnedah.
Cr Hoddle disagreed with the premise of the existing Business Partner Program and suggested those funds should be reinvested into other areas where costs were already deemed too high by local operators, such as headwork charges.
“We run a lot of programs and I wonder what the benefit in a lot of it is,” he said.
“Some instances in sport and cultural there is a real need. In business, it is about council picking winners.
“I would rather see some of this money for business partner programs going into reducing costs for headworks charges – they are the disincentives for business coming here – it’s not giving them $5000 to buy a computer.”To order photos from this page click here