Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey.
Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey.

Blackburn: ‘Policy on the go’

Mayoral candidate Helen Blackburn has claimed current Mayor Jack Dempsey did not consult other councillors on a proposed concept to stimulate construction in the region.

Cr Dempsey spoke yesterday at the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s ‘Future of Bundaberg’ event where he revealed an investigation into the cost of the scheme.

Under the proposed scheme, Bundaberg Regional Council could fund between $5000 and $20,000 for each new house built in the region.

This idea is similar to an already established scheme by Rockhampton Regional Council, which created a $5000 grant for residents to build new houses, which would subsidise rates.

A spokesman from the Bundaberg Regional Council described the scheme in Rockhampton as “an interesting idea”.

Cr Dempsey said both state and federal governments had talked about using infrastructure development to stimulate the economy, this had mostly occurred in the major cities.

“If the cost-benefit analysis deems it viable, we’ll look to implement this as part of the next council budget,” Cr Dempsey said.

“I’ll present the findings of our study to the State and Federal Governments and seek their assistance to maximise the potential grant for local homeowners.”

And while Cr Blackburn was on-board with the Mayor’s plan, she noted that the decision was not one made by the Council as a whole.

“While I welcome the Mayor’s concept to help stimulate building and construction in Bundaberg, there’s been no consultation with other councillors’ and that’s no way to operate a local government,” Cr Blackburn said.

“Now that this has been announced I believe it is imperative to get the Council around the table and find a way to implement it immediately.”

She said the building industries needed stimulus now more than ever, though if the matter was left for the next Council it could take a further twelve months before the industries received assistance.

“This is a classic example of why I’m running for Mayor, there’s no consultation and there’s no transparency,” Cr Blackburn said.

Cr Dempsey said there would be ongoing consultation with councillors, industry and stakeholders.

“The proposal that I’m putting forward will seek to backdate the housing construction grant to November 2019,” he said.

“Given the strong budget position of council, this will be achieved at no increased cost to ratepayers.”

Cr Blackburn said the ‘policy-on-the-go approach’ without talking to the other elected officials in Bundaberg was dangerous for business confidence and needed to stop.

“We need a leader of the team who will listen to the community, discuss with stakeholders, including the Regional Council team and industry, and put forward a considered plan,” she said.

Since the financial year began there have been 78 new building approvals in the Bundaberg council area.

UDIA president Nathan Freeman said Cr Dempsey’s proposal would “certainly go towards fixing the issue we’ve got at the moment”.

He said the construction industry was significant to the rest of the economy, which is why it was important to find ways to make it grow.

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