Goulburn Mulwaree Council floats new developer charges

"UNFAIR:" Real estate agent Peter Mylonas says developers are being asked to "fund the city's issues" with proposed increases in council infrastructure charges.
"UNFAIR:" Real estate agent Peter Mylonas says developers are being asked to "fund the city's issues" with proposed increases in council infrastructure charges.

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Proposed new council infrastructure charges will scare off investment in Goulburn Mulwaree, say a developer and real estate agent.

Moreover, the fees for water supply, sewerage and stormwater, will only be passed on to buyers, they claim.

“The talk is of the city moving to another level and a lot of investors are looking at us. The last thing we need is for the council to stifle investment,” real estate agent, Peter Mylonas said.

He was referring to the council’s Development Servicing Plan for Goulburn, Marulan and Marys Mount. The document, on exhibition until Friday, proposes major increases in infrastructure charges. Council general manager Warwick Bennett has described the hikes as “fair and reasonable.”

For water supply the plan floats a rise in water supply developer charges from $3410 per equivalent tenement (/et) to $5621 in Goulburn, a 39 per cent increase. At Mary’s Mount it’s a 29pc increase to $8137/et and at Marulan, a 200pc hike to $5621/et.

Sewerage infrastructure charges also rise 124pc, 147pc and 97pc respectively for Goulburn, Marulan and Marys Mount to $10,165/et. However Marulan attracts a 50pc cross subsidy from ratepayers.

The only relief is with stormwater fees for Marulan and Marys Mount, which reduce to $1325/et. But in Goulburn the charge rises 116pc to $2541/et.

The council has justified the hikes, saying they are necessary to recover part of the infrastructure costs in servicing developments so as not to burden ratepayers. The document details millions of dollars in capital works across all three fronts, maintaining existing assets and catering for growth to 37,345 people by 2046. 

But Mr Mylonas argued the fees were “astronomical” and that developers were “unfairly paying for the city’s issues.”

“You’ve got to ask why are they doing it and what is the benefit to development. Is it to balance the books and the other question is, does the council need the money?” he said. 

Mr Mylonas’s lobbying several years ago over proposed infrastructure charges at South Goulburn resulted in a reduction from $32,000 to $22,000 per block. 

Councillors will decide whether to endorse the new fees at a meeting in October or November.

The council has received three submissions to date on the Development Servicing Plan, a spokesman confirmed.

But Mr Bennett says the suggested fees are reasonable.

“The basis is that existing ratepayers have fully funded upgrade of the water and sewer scheme to the extent that they are in credit,” he said.

“When a developer comes along and pays one contribution to water and sewer and then subdivides it into 100 lots, there will be 99 additional dwellings contributing to the wastewater scheme.

“...I compare it to electricity costs. When you buy into an electricity system you must pay to connect it. What is the difference between that and water and sewer, otherwise ratepayers are subsidising developers and developers are getting free entry into a system. That’s not fair.”

Essentially, he argued it was about re-setting the burden. However Mr Bennett said the “science” was based on the council subsidising 50 per cent of the cost because there was some use by ratepayers, some of whom were coming new to the services.

But he said both developers and ratepayers would benefit from the council’s user and availability charges for water and sewer which remained unchanged in this year’s budget.

The proposed infrastructure fees were audited following councillors’ consideration of the draft schedule in March. Some changes were made as a result. Yet they don’t impress Mr Mylonas, who plans to lodge a submission.

“If you are looking at such large increases, it seems out of control,” he said.

“People are struggling with electricity prices and the like. The council is hitting the ones (developers) who have the means to pay to fix the issues of the city. They should be encouraging people to invest. Business is tough already and these exorbitant fees won’t help.”

Mr Mylonas said he didn’t object to fees rising with inflation but felt the scale was “unfair.”

Boathouse Developments director, Graham Irving, echoed the sentiment. He is selling 35 approved residential blocks in Wollondilly Avenue. While the change won’t affect this project, he’s worried about future ramifications. 

“It’s an astronomical jump. We don’t mind them going up with CPI but it seems to be doubling the charge, which is very significant,” he said.

“...We moved to Wollondilly Avenue based on the excessive fees at Marys Mount, so it’s a very big determining factor for us.”

Mr Irving said he’d be doing other developments in Goulburn and was “well advanced” in securing other sites.

Both he and Mr Mylonas argued developers would inevitably pass on the cost to buyers through land prices.

Also this month, Landteam planning consultant Justin Kell told councillors that the charges would add close to $10,000 to blocks in the just approved 112-lot ‘Joseph’s Gate’ subdivision surrounding the former Saint Joseph’s House of Prayer on Taralga Road.

He is asking for a transitional clause, if the charges are approved, to exempt projects lodged before the fees are endorsed.