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Business holdups – expansions, potential jobs lost

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Chris Oldfield, Naracoorte Community News

Millions of dollars of development and jobs are being held up by Naracoorte Lucindale Council, according to several of the district’s leading businesses.

Alternatively, traditional businesses are being charged up to hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand with council demands for costly stormwater and drainage reports – and works.

Most believe the council is deliberately holding up long-term businesses, particularly those servicing agriculture, the rural community and outlying districts.

And they believe council is giving preferential treatment to some developments, even using ratepayers’ funds in court action.

Trying to expand and stay in the district, one traditional business owner servicing rural and regional customers told The [Naracoorte Community] News that he had already spent almost $100,000.

Not wanting his businesses identified publicly just yet, he believes his only option is to shift to another council district and claims the welcome mat has already been rolled out.

“I don’t want to move, I shouldn’t have to,” he told The [Naracoorte Community] News.

“I’d say that this council is obstructionist – there is no other word to describe it.

“From what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen, the council isn’t helping the people who have been here a long time – because they are hiding behind all these regulations for some, and not for others.

“The other thing is, (I believe) they are withdrawing from their responsibilities like stormwater and drainage and that sort of thing, and cost shifting back on to ratepayers – making them pay twice.”

Already he has built a shed in another council area.

“I don’t want to move, but what else can I do?” he said.

Another long-running multi-million-dollar business had its expansion plans assessed last year and – like others – the development is listed in a council agenda as “granted” or “approved”.

But, similar to others, behind the approval is a condition for a costly engineer’s report regarding the development’s stormwater and drainage requirements.

Despite finance in place for a significant expansion, the plans have been dumped.

“I know if I went up the road a bit, I’d be welcomed by the Tatiara council, but just not here,” he said.

“And since when is stormwater and drainage suddenly mine and not a council responsibility?”

Like rural roads, rubbish and streetlights, traditionally stormwater and drainage have been a basic function of local councils – the core reason why commercial and industrial businesses pay hefty rate bills.

The [Naracoorte Community] News has been researching development applications stretching back to 2017 and since then several new and expanding projects appear to be reliant on applicants seeking engineer reports for stormwater and drainage.

A solar farm development approved by the council in 2019 for 25 Kingston Rd West, included a condition for “a detailed landscaping plan prepared by an appropriately qualified landscape architect/designer for council approval”.

Additionally, the council required the applicant to provide a detailed stormwater management plan “prepared by a suitably qualified engineer and approved works to be carried out prior to the solar farm being activated”.

Entering Naracoorte from Lucindale and Robe, there is no sign of a solar farm on the Kingston Rd West.

Also last year, Naracoorte Toyota submitted plans to the council in a bid to move its business to an allotment which it had bought in the former railway lands.

Just a few months ago mayor Erika Vickery was heard telling ABC radio about the relocation of a major business to the railway lands.

But so far, there is no such movement for Naracoorte Toyota.

Despite the Naracoorte Creek being just 50m from the proposed new premises for the popular, award-winning business, Naracoorte Toyota cannot move an inch.

The council is demanding the company pay for an engineer’s report, plus all stormwater and drainage costs and requirements.

The subdivision is owned by the State Government which manages it via its transport department.

The council and the government have had at least six years to sort out their stormwater responsibilities, but appear to be at loggerheads and blaming each other.

It now appears that responsibility and costs have fallen upon Naracoorte Toyota.

It is understood a lease is soon to expire for the current site of Naracoorte Toyota, and already another town is rolling out the red carpet, attempting to woo the blue-chip business.

Council documents show last year a Naracoorte based business couple had their plans for expansion “granted”.

But again, it was subject to an expensive engineer’s report and costly stormwater and drainage works.

Business proprietor Jamie Tidy said he had done a few developments during the past 10 years and had always tried to go through all the proper channels.

Mr Tidy thought it would be nice if the council was more helpful in finding solutions rather than all the reasons why a development could not proceed.

“I really don’t want to get council offside but if businesses grow, then they employ more people which means more people move to or stay in Naracoorte which makes Naracoorte more relevant,” Mr Tidy said.

“Plenty of small country towns are dying and we all need to work together to ensure Naracoorte keeps moving forward.”

Several businesses were contacted for comment, but most were reluctant to speak out publicly against the council.

Naracoorte Community News 28 July 2021

This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 28 July 2021.

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