TAXPAYERS have gifted the developers of Googong tens of millions of dollars by picking up the tab for the Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE), following last week's announcement of a $50 million dollar grant for the road from the State and Federal governments.
Co-developers of Googong, CIC Australia and Mirvac, were to pay 64 per cent of the total cost of the road- which is predicted to cost somewhere between $44 and $55 million- in developers' contributions to help fund the infrastructure catering for new residents of their town.
The contributions scheme is detailed in a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) signed off between Council and the developers in 2012. However Queanbeyan Council infrastructure manager Phil Hansen told The Queanbeyan Age this week that planning legislation prevents Council recovering developer's contributions in situations where grant money exists.
"The $50 million [grant] is of great benefit to the Queanbeyan community, and as much it covers expenditure that developers may have paid into the future, it also pays the expenditure that Council [would have to pay], which is of great benefit to everyone who lives in the Council and pays rates," Mr Hansen said.
"But we cannot charge a developer for something that we don't have to pay for. There's no ability to charge [the developer for a grant-funded road]."
Googong developers will continue to pay Section 94 contributions for other related roads and infrastructure supporting the new township under the VPA, and have already paid $12 million for realignment works along Old Cooma Road.
A Council finance spokesperson told The Queanbeyan Age this week that if the total cost of the EDE came in at $50 million, the developers- who stand to make millions of dollars profit in sales at Googong- wouldn't have to pay a cent for the road.
"If additional funding is obtained for the project, it first goes to meeting Council's obligation towards the project. Anything that remains then goes towards meeting the developer's obligation towards the project," the spokesman said.
However if the total cost ran over $50 million, Googong developers would then pay their share of the outstanding amount, the spokesman said.
"It wouldn't matter if it was a Section 94 plan or a VPA, anything now that relates to the cost that's covered by some other form of income, it's as if [legally] the developer does not have to pay it. It's not a free kick, it's just the way the law is applied," Mr Hansen said.
However former Queanbeyan City Councillor Ann Rocca, who voted against the Googong VPA at the time it was implemented said the developer was being "let off the hook."
"I don't see why the taxpayers should be giving a massive, multi-million dollar subsidy to the developer when they could be allocating that money in another way," Ms Rocca said.