Newman Has Succeeded: Property Chief

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Monday, January 12th, 2015
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The current government in Queensland has delivered an excellent performance in its first term from a property industry perspective and has achieved important gains in a number of critical policy and regulatory areas, a leader in the sector in that state says.

As the state’s election looms on January 31, Queensland executive director of the Property Council of Australia Chris Mountford cautioned that more needs to be done but says the last three years have seen a number of important steps to boost productivity and unlock the sector’s maximum potential.

“Overall we believe that the government has delivered on its commitment to cut red tape for the property industry,” Mountford said. “The past three years have seen significant reform in a number of important policy areas such as planning, real estate licencing and environmental offsets.”

Mountford said the introduction of the State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) to coordinate state planning decisions and provide a single lodgement and assessment point for development applications has been a significant step forward.

“Prior to the introduction of SARA, applicants had to navigate the maze of State Government agencies themselves, and often received conflicting advice from different departments,” he said. “This one action has made development assessment a less risky and confusing proposition in Queensland.”

“We also support the Government’s decision to seek a mandate to lease state assets at the election to free up funds to invest in growth enabling infrastructure. Queensland needs a fresh wave of infrastructure if we are to continue the property industry’s rebound from the post GFC malaise and unlock broader economic activity.”

Mountford’s comments come as major parties campaign to secure votes.

The LNP – which has designated the property and construction sector as one of the ‘four pillars’ of the state’s economy – is working with industry leaders to develop a 20-year plan and has promised to undertake a significant program of privatisation in order to pay down debt and invest around $8.6 billion into infrastructure projects as well as to put more funding into skills and apprentices.

Labour, for its part, promises to beef up investment in transport and social housing, and says it will reform the planning system with an emphasis on liveability and sustainability.

The comments also come as the Council last week unveiled its election blueprint in which it called for key changes in the areas of planning and taxation. These include a requirement for local councils to seek independent review of planning schemes prior to submission to the state government for approval, the linking of regional plans to state infrastructure plans and a statutory guideline outlining fairness principals local governments much consider when setting differential rating categories for property tax.

Mountford said the successful passage of planning legislation which entered Parliament but was not passed prior to the caretaker period was crucial, and added that the sector was pushing for greater accountability on the part of local councils on planning related matters.

“We also would like to see a focus on tax reform,” he said. “Clearly the Federal Government is pushing ahead with its Federation and Tax Reform white papers. Queensland needs to have a plan and a powerful voice in these debates over the next three years.”

Mountford’s sentiments regarding the Newman government’s first-term performance are widely shared throughout the sector. In a Property Council survey of more than 1,900 managers and professionals across the real-estate, development and construction industry released earlier this month, those operating primarily within Queensland were on average more satisfied with their government’s performance in planning and managing growth compared with their counterparts in any other state throughout the country.

Despite this, Mountford said that at present, there is not enough detail surrounding major party policies to give an informed comparison of the merits or otherwise of each party’s respective policy platform from the sector’s point of view.

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