23/09/2014 - 10:50

Calls for reform before new taxes

23/09/2014 - 10:50

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The state government has been urged to take a whole-of-state approach to infrastructure planning after it emerged a new tax was being considered to help develop roads, railways and other major projects in regional areas.

Calls for reform before new taxes

The state government has been urged to take a whole-of-state approach to infrastructure planning after it emerged a new tax was being considered to help develop roads, railways and other major projects in regional areas.

Planning Minister John Day told parliament last month the government had been considering rolling out the Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax, which has been in place since the 1960s, across the state since the release of the government’s planning reform papers around 12 months ago.

The tax is used to finance the cost of providing land for roads, open spaces, parks and similar public facilities.

It is imposed at a rate of 0.14 cent for every dollar of land values in excess of $300,000.

Mr Day said the system had been highly successful, enabling the acquisition of land for the construction of the Perth-to-Mandurah railway, as well as for the protection of the Swan River and Canning River foreshores.

Funds raised from the tax, however, cannot be used in regional areas, prompting the state government to consider expanding it to facilitate better infrastructure delivery.

However, Regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kitty Prodonovich said any new tax would not be welcome in country areas, which had higher costs of living than the city.

Ms Prodonovich cautioned that a new land tax would discourage developers and small businesses from looking at country towns.

“All of the country towns in WA are trying to attract new small businesses to their towns, because a vibrant small business community is a vibrant community,” she said.

“If there are any new taxes, it might just be the thing that makes someone decide not to go.

“If you’re looking at developers thinking about setting up light industrial areas or retail development, that may alter their decision to develop a parcel of land that could be used by businesses of all different sizes or for housing, which will then affect that town or city.”

Ms Prodonovich said instead of a new tax, a coordinated, long-term approach to infrastructure planning in the regions was what was needed.

Shire of Murray MLA Murray Cowper went a step further, calling for an urgent review of planning and development controls in the regions.

Mr Cowper said it was becoming increasingly difficult for small businesses and landowners, especially in the South West, to navigate the planning system.

An example raised by Mr Cowper was the large plots of grazing and market gardening land in the South West that had been identified as environmentally sensitive.

“New planning controls can deliberately forbid the use of this land or water, thereby ensuring that it ultimately has no value,” Mr Cowper said.

“It is a devious, undemocratic practice at the point of demanding a major independent inquiry, and it is stifling our existing local rural landowners, and in some cases putting them out of business.

“It is a serious management anomaly that must be addressed by the Barnett government before there is further talk of new rural land taxes, more planning controls, or other new forms of environmental blackmail.”

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