ANOTHER major building and construction firm has expressed its absolute frustration with the disastrous planning and approvals processes of the Bass Coast Shire Council. This firm is in the final throes of getting a long-awaited project off the ground and is therefore reluctant to make public comment. But they say the council’s failure to act in both a timely and professional manner, to facilitate their worthy project, together with jobs and growth in the construction industry locally, is breathtaking.
We’ve heard exactly these sorts of comments many times before. They are just the latest in a long line of others from the sector to single out the Bass Coast Shire Council for special criticism as one of the worst municipalities to deal with in the state. Not only is its attitude costing these firms huge sums in process costs and tied-up investment funds, but more importantly, it’s costing jobs and a much-needed financial injection into the local economy. Several firms have been prepared to speak out, like the Wonthaggi land developer who said he was planning to take the council to court over the delays. Other private-sector building industry professionals have told us of their frustrations but have not wanted to go public for fear of being black-balled by the council’s planning department.
But, how bad can it get! It’s time for those who’ve experienced these sorts of problems to finally speak out or nothing will change. Of course, we also know of others who’ve have packed up their projects and their project funding and simply gone elsewhere. Still others have heard of Bass Coast’s obstructive reputation and not even bothered. There’s no doubt that the failure of the council to adopt any sense of urgency with the release of residential development land in Wonthaggi, in the lead-up to the start of the desalination project, has cost this community dearly. Certainly there’s land available now but if people had bought blocks in Wonthaggi in the boom time, they’d be getting on and building their houses by now, instead of standing on the sidelines and waiting for the economy to settle. We’d have more jobs for local tradesmen as a result and a much healthier economy. However, instead of adopting any sense of urgency around trying to encourage one of the most important drivers of the local economy to fire up, by making success in this area of the council’s operations a real priority, what have we seen? Business as usual!
Street light efficiency, website redesigns, winning awards for their annual report, so-called ‘Asset Protection Permits’ which slug builders even further, building themselves a new shire office, a transport study for Phillip Island, and dozens upon dozens of strategic plans… these are the things that are absorbing their time and effort. But what about the main game? The shire should be moving heaven and earth to get these good projects to the finish line. Shire CEO Allan Bawden may be retiring in March next year but he shouldn’t be sitting on his hands until then, hoping nothing goes wrong before he goes out. Get on with it Allan! We’ve also had it with the council’s denials. There’s simply too much criticism from the building sector to say that something is rotten in the State of Bass Coast and if the shire council and its hierarchy won’t, or can’t do something about it, we want to hear from our local State MP, Ken Smith, about a State Government inquiry into the planning and approvals processes of the Bass Coast Shire. If they are indeed impeding growth, it’s not only costing this region, it’s also costing the state of Victoria.