Council says no dice to revised cost-sharing plan for estate
The cost of water and sewer infrastructure continues to be a sticking point for the Whitsunday Paradise project after the council knocked back another cost-sharing proposal from developers.
At last week's council meeting, councillors considered a revised infrastructure agreement that proposed the council offset 100 per cent of the cost of water infrastructure and decommissioning an onsite sewage treatment plant, and 30 per cent of the cost of providing sewerage infrastructure.
The revised agreement came after the council knocked back an infrastructure agreement proposing the council offset 100 per cent of the costs for all three components - water, sewerage and decommissioning the plant.
The infrastructure cost proposal was among about 300 items Whitsunday Paradise developers submitted to the council for negotiation.
During the council meeting, council's development services director Neil McGaffin said many of the 300 points were minor wording changes, which the council agreed to.
But there were a few that seemed to vary council policy, so they were turned down.
In terms of the water and sewer costs, council documents state the infrastructure is non-trunk infrastructure, so the developers were not entitled to an offset against levied charges.
"It is not within the interests of council or the community to provide the reduction sought," the council agenda states.
"Infrastructure charges contributions are essential for council's ability to fund identified trunk infrastructure for the betterment of the community.
"The applicant has not provided any information to justify why council has liability for the infrastructure offset requested."
Mayor Andrew Willcox noted the developers were asking for 100 per cent of the cost of decommissioning the sewage treatment plant.
"We don't currently own it," Cr Willcox said.
"Why would council pay to decommission an asset that we don't own?
"That's what we're being asked here to do."
Cr Willcox said the council would support the developer's requested reduction to road widths, but would not support the infrastructure subsidy.
"It's a refund for infrastructure costs that the developer needs to pay," he said.
Councillors unanimously voted to approve some of the changes the developer put forward but declined the alternative cost-sharing agreement for water and sewer infrastructure.
DEVELOPERS STAND FIRM
GRW Group, the developer behind the planned $1.1 billion Whitsunday Paradise project, applauded the council's decision to support a change to road widths.
It wants the council to give the same backing to a water and sewerage infrastructure agreement.
GRW Group general manager Blake Thomas said the company had legal and professional advice that was in opposition to the council's position.
"Nobody wants an expensive and drawn-out legal battle,'' he said.
"We would rather the council obtain further independent advice about their position and come back with reasonable conditions so we can start work on the project sooner."
Mr Thomas said the council, in its conditions, had tried to "double dip" on infrastructure charges.
"The council wants to make us pay twice for the same $20 million of infrastructure,'' said Mr Thomas.
"I want to emphasise that our offer to pay for the full infrastructure cost, in no way risked council or ratepayers' money, it is purely about infrastructure charges.
"We, as the developer, intend to pay for everything, but only once."
Mr Thomas said despite council claims, requiring a developer to construct a $14 million reservoir was not standard conditions.
Mr Thomas said the Whitsunday Paradise project would provide significant benefits to the Bowen community, including $1.1 billion in economic impact for the region over the next 20 years.
"We are hopeful the council will see the light and approve sensible conditions soon,'' Mr Thomas said.
"Once an agreement is in place, we can start calling for the first round of tender documents for the preliminary works.
"At the moment we have an incredible opportunity to market Bowen as a destination of choice to those people living in the capital cities and wanting to move to regional areas."
When completed, Whitsunday Paradise will be a masterplanned community comprising 2000 dwellings for up to 5000 people and a commercial centre with associated sporting fields and parks.
The Whitsunday Paradise project is strongly supported by the Bowen community, including Bowen Collinsville Enterprise chairman Paul McLaughlin who would like to see the development progress as soon as possible.
"BCE fully supports this development and see it as one of the best opportunities in our region to boost our economic growth over a long period," Mr McLaughlin said.
"I encourage council and the developers to undertake independent mediation as soon as possible to get a ruling on the outstanding issues.
"I trust both parties will then abide with the decision and get on in delivering this project for the benefit of our community."