'Private development key to woes'

HE MAY be the Local Government Minister but David Crisafulli made it clear yesterday that he had no interest in discussing the biggest issue facing two of the largest councils in south-east Queensland.

The former Townsville deputy mayor was not prepared to discuss any matter relating to the infrastructure costs to the Sunshine Coast Council of the Caloundra South development or the impact of Yarrabilba on the finances of Logan City.

Former mayor Bob Abbot has called for a full independent review of the Caloundra South decision which could cost the council more than $500 million.

Logan City has lodged proceedings in the Supreme Court of Queensland against the Urban Land Development Authority and developer Lend Lease.

Mr Crisafulli, who yesterday attended a Local Government Association of Queensland leadership forum for mayors and their deputies at Twin Waters Resort, directed all questions about costs to Planning Minister Jeff Seeney.

Despite the collective debt of Queensland's 73 local authorities having risen from $1.8billion to $5.3billion between 2008-12 he described their finances as a shining light when compared with those of the State Government.

The Minister acknowledged the greatest part of that increased debt had gone to fund infrastructure in the state's fastest growing regions.

He said the debt that worried him was that which could not be serviced or which related to non vital infrastructure or where it was borrowing just to keep the lights on.

Mr Crisafulli said local government needed to ensure developments were serviceable in the long-term in terms of infrastructure and maintenance.

While reluctant to discuss the financial burden on councils of State Government planning decisions, he did have advice for them on how they could help kick-start the state's economy. He said while councils did not have much hope of outside funding they did have land which could be used to engage in public-private partnerships.

Mr Crisafulli suggested that public car parks offered such as opportunity where councils could stimulate economic activity through redevelopment while potentially increasing infrastructure.

"The announcement on Saturday of Project Queensland, a stand-alone state unit to encourage public-private partnerships, shows clearly the direction Premier Newman is steering the state ship,'' he told the forum.

"The money is not there, but the need for infrastructure is urgent. The choices are clear - sit on our hands and hope all will be all right or look outside Treasury for revenue to rebuild Queensland.

"I urge you to look outside the traditional funding arrangements and don't wait for money to rain down. Take a determined approach to building public sector partnerships.

"The one thing that nearly all councils have in abundance is land.

"Whether it's regional councils with land to lease for agriculture or a coastal council that aspires to turn a car park into a mixed-use site, the ability to achieve does not just depend on government funding.

"It might be that the State Government can assist through leasing certainty, fast-tracking approvals, or just opening doors in the corporate sector.

"And there are some projects that will only ever be funded by government.

"But the important thing is that councils continue to find a way to provide the infrastructure and services that your communities need. I have every confidence you will."

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