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Rates freeze, $27m rescue package in budget aimed at 'whingers'

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Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has used the city budget to hit back at “whingers” who have accused him of not supporting business during COVID-19 shutdowns, claiming the Gold Coast’s economic and tourism recovery would sail through the crisis.

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Under the $1.7 billion budget, Gold Coast residents will receive a rates freeze, spending of more than $288 million on roads and transport as part of a capital works program, and a $26.9 million community and business rescue package to charge the city’s post COVID-19 recovery.

About 11,500 businesses in the Gold Coast’s tourism precincts of Broadbeach, Southport and Coolangatta will be spared a regular special tourism levy and roadside dining fees will be waived.

But, there will be no major injection of extra funds for the Gold Coast’s top tourism promotion body, Destination Gold Coast, to bring tourists back to Australia’s tourism playground.

Controversial big-ticket tourist projects including the controversial cruise ship terminal and cableway for the hinterland have also been pushed to the back-burner.

Ahead of the budget, Tate came under intense criticism for supporting the ongoing closure of the Queensland border, as the business community claimed it was crippling tourism and businesses.

A chorus-line of business operators took aim at the mayor, including Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall who wrote a scathing open letter that described council’s support for the business community as “almost non-existent” and the prognosis for the Gold Coast business community as “terminal”.

“I take offence at going ‘the mayor turn his back on business’,” Tate said.

“I believe as we come out of this, economy-wise we will sail past COVID-19 and we will be the most prosperous city post-recovery.”

Spending measures in the budget revealed funding for Destination Gold Coast on a par with the previous year at $15.5 million, but $9.3 million for the new events body, Major Events Gold Coast.

Tate said Destination Gold Coast already had $7.2 million in funding that was unspent during coronavirus lockdowns on travel, while their pitch for extra funds was “underwhelming” and in summer the Gold Coast was going to “fill up anyway”.

“The business model was underwhelming in my opinion. It didn’t convince me to use more ratepayer funds because it didn’t say how you’re going to get the return on that investment,” Tate said.

“By the time the borders open, proportionally they’ve got more funding than ever.

“And we looked at the financial modelling and it’s more than ample. The data shows the desired destination for Australians is to come to the Gold Coast, so we’re already up there, we just need to top it up and maintain that position,” Tate said.

Deputy Mayor Donna Gates said there had been intense pressure from groups across the city for funding.

“We focused on community, we focused on keeping the rates as low as we possibly can and it’s a good outcome in difficult times,” Gates said.

Under the $9.1 million rates freeze package, about 137,800 principal place of residence ratepayers will receive a $64 rebate.

Tate said the “difficult” budget struck the balance of looking after people who were hurting while bolstering the city’s recovery.

He said opponents who attacked the recovery package had jumped the gun.

“It’s a bit like you arrived at a restaurant, sat down and didn’t even look at the menu and you’re whinging already,” he said.

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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