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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

    Email Gavin King

    Local builders call for level-playing field from Cairns Regional Council

    Local builders and developers are increasingly concerned about Cairns Regional Council’s process for development approvals and incentives, labelling it a “two-speed” approach that favours international or southern developers over smaller, local companies.

    While large-scale projects are fast-tracked through council’s complex approvals regime, local builders told TropicNow they are waiting “months and months” for a response, let alone approval.

    Given the dearth of locally built projects from greenfield developments to small-scale apartment blocks, the industry also wants council to introduce a headworks incentive policy to kickstart localised construction.

    Cairns Regional Council is one of just 13 of 72 local councils without a current headworks incentive scheme.

    Previous incentive schemes introduced by council offered discounts on headworks charges to developers who start building within a certain timeframe, usually within two years of approval.

    The last time council offered such a scheme – hailed as a great success – up to 100 percent of infrastructure charges were waived provided the construction value was greater than $15 million and at least 80 percent of staff and tradies used were local workers.

    One property industry source – who asked not to be named for fear of putting council officers offside – said there was a “growing and obvious bias” towards foreign or southern developers.

    “There’s a great deal of frustration to see local builders and developers who have long supported the town being held up from getting on with business, and then at the same time we see other proponents receiving a fast-tracked approach,” the industry figure said.

    “The frustration isn’t that things are moving quickly for people out of town – we support that approach wholeheartedly and streamlined, fast approvals is the way it should be.

    “It’s the fact that the same approach isn’t universally applied for locals as well.

    “The speed and pro-active approach that council applies to international and southern developers is exactly the approach that’s needed. But it should also be applied to local builders and developers.”

    Division 5 councillor Richie Bates told TropicNow he was “mindful” of supporting local businesses.

    “We can't afford to get complacent and need to make a concerted effort to support local construction wherever we can," he said.