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Southland regional development strategy to consider barriers to new development


The group tasked with lifting regional development in Southland wants southern councils to align their building fees to make it easier for developers to invest in the south.

The Southland Regional Development Strategy ease of doing business team is calling on southern councils to level fees and charges for new dwellings and industrial buildings to make the process easier and clearer for builders and developers.

On Tuesday Southland District Council chief executive Steve Ruru, who is a member of the "ease of doing business" action team, presented a report to the city council to discuss unifying council functions.

At present the fees for a new dwelling within the Invercargill City Council boundaries sit at $6200 - $1200 more than Gore, and nearly $3000 more than the Southland District Council.

Southern-regional-development-strategyRuru said the aim of the Southland Regional Development Strategy was to make Southland the easiest place to do business in New Zealand. 

HR Building Ltd owner Hayden Rankin said a level-out of fees would affect the house owners, developers and those making new subdivisions. 

Although the new dwelling fees varied between councils, it would not be the breaking point to make developers build outside the Invercargill boundary, Rankin said. 

Russell Cunningham Properties Ltd quantity surveyor and property manager Alex Cunningham, who pays commercial development fees and charges to the Invercargill City Council, said the change could be positive for builds in the region.

Lower commercial property fees and charges could lessen leases and make property more attractive to business tenants, Cunningham said. 

The differences arise because of the councils' inconsistent methods of fee calculation.

Southland District Council environmental services group manager Bruce Halligan, who is also a member of the ease of doing business team, said reviewing the fees and charges system could make development easier.

"You will see that there are some differences between councils and we do the bench marking to see how we compare to other councils."

"You can do something quite similar across the region and pay something quite significantly different." 

"Certainly the difference in fees is something that we're trying to focus on at the moment and we're trying to understand that." 

Invercargill City Council director of finance and corporate services Dean Johnston said the comparison between the city council's new dwelling fees and charges and those of the Southland District Council could be unfair because the councils used different systems. 

The SDC charges were based on flat rates, while the city council charged per square metre, he said.

He agreed continuity across the district would be beneficial.

"There's been some questions raised by some builders. If I was to build in Invercargill I would be charged X, and if I built in the Southland district I would be billed Y.

"The idea is to get some continuity across the district." 

However, he did not believe the present ICC fees and charges were a burden. 

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said the ease of business team could make development easier. 

"We've recognised that there are differences and it's a work in progress," he said.

"It has to be fair and equitable. If we can have it so that it is as easy as it is across the region then that's ideal." 

For a more unified approach some fees and charges might increase while some might decrease, Hicks said. 

Southland Regional Development Strategy chairman Tom Campbell said the action team was not weighted to any council. 

"The ease of doing business team is made up of representatives from each of the councils, plus representatives from businesses."