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Calls for public servants to return to offices as CBD remains a 'ghost town'

Business

Brisbane’s office occupancy had fallen to 61 per cent because of social distancing issues, prompting calls for public servants to scale back working from home amid an overall surge in the Queensland property sector’s confidence.

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According to the Queensland Property Council, unlike the commercial sector, residential developers were in the middle of the highest levels of activity since pre-GFC.

The CBD is suffering because the Queensland Government has yet to give support, unlike their counterparts in NSW and Victoria. Many of the state’s public servants continue to work from home.

The latest results from the ANZ/Property Council survey show confidence levels in Queensland’s property industry soaring 45 index points over the past quarter.

Property Council Queensland deputy executive director Jen Williams said it was promising to see overall confidence exceed pre-COVID levels, with a strong rebound from 79 index points last quarter to 124 index points in December 2020 (with 100 being a neutral level of confidence).

“The outlook for most sectors of the property industry is extremely encouraging, with Queensland’s residential, industrial and retirement sectors set to benefit from an increase in consumer sentiment and expected influx of interstate migrants,” Williams said.

“However, while forward work schedule, staffing levels and economic growth expectations are all positive, confidence in the commercial office and retail sectors remains stubbornly low.

“Office occupancy in the Brisbane CBD is still only at 61 per cent, with most building owners and managers not expecting to see a material increase in CBD occupancy for three months or longer.

“Where other sectors of the economy have benefited from targeted strategies and stimulus measures such as HomeBuilder and the Good to Go tourism campaign- our CBDs have missed out.

“We are now at a critical juncture for our CBD economies, which are big drivers of economic activity and the engine rooms of productivity, collaboration and innovation.

“The NSW and Victorian governments have given clear directions supporting the return to office workplaces, however a similar direction has not been publicly made here in Queensland.

“Every worker that returns to their office means more business for CBD cafes, restaurants, retail outlets and other service providers.

“After successfully managing the health impacts of COVID, Queensland is well-positioned for economic growth. There is now no reason for people to not return to our city centres.

“So, while the survey results indicate better times ahead for Queensland, Government must now step up and show leadership on getting people and activity back in our CBDs to ensure a complete- and lasting- economic recovery.”

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