Taxing time for local builders
By BELINDA F SCOTT
COFFS Coast builders and home buyers are struggling with a flat economy, says builder Brian Hopwood and one year of high banana prices won't translate into new homes.
He said yesterday house-and-land package prices had risen from $140,000 to $320,000 in the past five years, but average Coffs Coast incomes had risen only 10-12 per cent in that time and both young people and retirees were having problems.
"Things are pretty tough. I got my two eldest into houses, but it will be a battle for the youngest," Mr Hopwood said.
"The building industry in Coffs Harbour has slowed down to only 40-50 per cent of what it was in 2001." The vendor tax stopped it dead, but the feel of it is still dragging on. Investors have gone somewhere else and it is hard to drag them back."
The vendor tax on real estate sales was imposed by former NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr, but withdrawn by current Premier Morris Iemma.
Mr Hopwood said what was keeping his team going at the moment was building homes in the Boambee Gardens retirement village, but even this work was slowing as retirees battled to find buyers for their family homes in order to move into the village.
The Coffs Harbour builder yesterday supported the call by Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker for a 12-month moratorium on State stamp duty on housing to help stimulate the North Coast local economy.
Mr Hartsuyker said the building industry had spare capacity and was able to generate jobs quickly.
But NSW Treasurer Michael Costa said stamp duty revenue from this area was $350 million a year and Mr Hartsuyker's moratorium would mean cuts in local services like health and education and the scaling-back of infrastructure projects like the Bonville Bypass.
Meanwhile the State's largest business organisation, ABL State Chamber, is again calling for reform of occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation and consideration of a 0.25 per cent cut to the State's 6 per cent payroll tax.
"The drought, interest rate increases, rising currency and falling property market are combining to create a perfect storm for NSW," said Kellon Beard, the regional manager for ABL State Chamber.
NSW has just recorded a quarter of negative growth and the Chamber says business is doing it tough.