Stimulate and succeed

We’ve taken the crown as Australia’s most liveable city. Without question our way of life in Canberra is enviable with beautiful parklands, clean air, outstanding cultural institutions and a diverse yet connected community. 

What is less certain is the future of the Canberra economic climate. The ripples of an economic downturn are still being felt across Lake Burley Griffin and additional federal public sector job cuts threaten our fragile consumer confidence. The impact on the construction sector has been palpable. As the largest private sector employer in Canberra the industry contributes around 10 percent to the Territory GDP - any significant slowdown will be felt by the whole community. 

Last month the Property Council, together with kindred groups including the Canberra Business Council and the Master Builders Association, presented the ACT Government with a ‘Call to Action’ paper recommending essential reforms to keep the ACT economy strong.

Key recommendations included the need to review property fees and charges and to create the right policy settings to foster a business environment supporting innovation, economic growth and investment.

The government has listened, and we are heartened by the Chief Minister’s recent announcement of an economic stimulus package for the Territory. 

For some time now our industry has struggled to respond to changes in demand. The lease variation charge (LVC) - a heavy fee applied when a property owner wants to convert an existing building or site - has stymied growth and investment in our city. Government commence and complete fees originally intended as a disincentive to residential ‘land banking’ also penalise owners of commercial and industrial land for failing to build on a block within a certain period of time. These too have proven to be onerous in a climate where financing for projects is uncertain and commercial vacancy rates high - sending some Canberra employers to the wall.

The positive reforms announced by the ACT Government will provide welcome short term relief. The LVC system is to be restructured and commencement charges abolished altogether, including a waiver period for eligible businesses.   These changes will encourage confidence and economic certainty for the Territory. Working with government, we look forward to achieving a policy environment that will shore up the future with long-term positive outcomes for our Canberra community.

If you’d like to know more about the ACT Government’s new Property Stimulus Package, the Property Council is hosting a forum at the National Museum of Australia on Thursday, 27 March 2014. To register go to:

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia.