Get the facts: State Act dictates development fees

A social media report suggesting that Redland City Council has granted a developer a 96 per cent fee “discount” is grossly misleading and ignores significant facts, including Council’s obligations under the Local Government Act.

It ignores the fact that Council’s ability to charge fees is prescribed under Section 97 the Local Government Act 2009, which stipulates that the fees it charges must be for cost recovery only.

The $175,520 amount charged to the applicants for the Redland Bay Shoreline project was dictated by this legally binding objective. It also is not the only fee applicable.

Council’s schedule for cost recovery is appropriate for most applications but the scale and nature of the Shoreline proposal and assumptions made about future uses led to a notional and grossly excessive figure of $4.6 million, which would not have complied with the Local Government Act.

Section 3 of Council’s adopted fees and charges schedule makes provision for such circumstances by stating that: “Requests to determine an appropriate fee or reduce the application fee when a strict application of the scheduled fee is considered unreasonable or inappropriate considering the work required to carry out the assessment of the application, or where an appropriate fee has not been set, may be approved upon application.”

Council was obliged to use the $4.6 million figure on its fee reduction memorandum under the provisions of its fee schedule. That figure was the result of assumptions made about potential future uses in line with the scope of this development. It is, however, substantially disproportionate to the actual workload for Council and therefore not compliant with the Local Government Act, triggering Section 3 of Council’s fees schedule.

It should be made clear that any future uses on this site will be subject to separate development applications and will still be subject to fees in accordance with Council’s fees and charges schedule, again to recover the cost of their assessment.

On this basis, and in order to comply with the Local Government Act, officers calculated an appropriate cost-recovery fee by estimating the workload to assess the application, the time required for officers to undertake their assessment and the subsequent cost to Council. This resulted in a fee of $175,520 being levied to the applicant.

To give some context, the employee costs budget for the whole City Planning and Assessment group is $6.8 million. To levy one development alone $4.6 million for what would be a fraction of their annual workload would be clearly indefensible.

It should also be pointed out that Council has also entered into a legal agreement with the applicant for them to cover the costs associated with external consultants should they be required.

Incidentally, the $175,520 fee is higher than that which would have been charged by either Gold Coast City Council or Ipswich City Council for such a development.