It has been five years in the making but the innovative land swap of flood-prone land for flood-free land in Murwillumbah is underway with a second round of ‘expressions of interest’ about to open.
The initial plan started following the 2017 ex-cyclone Debbie floods and will see eligible business landowners swap their flood-prone land with Council-owned, flood-free land at Industry Central, located in Lundberg Drive, South Murwillumbah.
The council was able to acquire the 14ha site with a $6.6 million grant from the NSW state government to develop the new industrial estate.
So far, five local businesses along with the Tweed Shire Council Depot, have confirmed they will be moving to the new site, with four allotments remaining unallocated.
‘There are four blocks of land available during the [upcoming] second round of expressions of interest [to eligible businesses],’ said Ray Musgrave, Co ordinator Development Engineering at Tweed Shire Council. ‘We are hoping that we can get out to the market in about three weeks.’
Construction to begin in August
Alder Constructions has been awarded the $3.18 million contract for the design and construction of all public infrastructure at Industry Central in Lundberg Drive, including the roads, stormwater, reticulated sewer, water supply and telecommunications.
Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry said she was excited to see construction planned for August.
‘Land swaps are complex legal and planning initiatives which are rarely undertaken, with this project already five years in the making,’ Cr Cherry said.
‘It is crucial we undertake this land swap. We must get businesses off the floodplain and up to higher ground if we are to ensure confidence in the local economy. Our region is growing and we are keen to support our business sector wherever we can.
‘This could pave the way for future land swaps in the Tweed and across the Northern Rivers.’
Philip Hepburn, treasurer of the Murwillumbah Chamber of Commerce said that ‘Financially you would have to be in a good position to do it.’
Mr Hepburn also pointed out that there are many businesses in Murwillumbah that could not get flood insurance or that if they could it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year category.
The land swap is between Tweed Shire Council and the landowners of the flood-prone land rather than the businesses on the site, however, a number of the landowners are also the business owners including JH Williams and Mick Bourke Transport.
‘We are dealing with the landowner and it is up to them to negotiate with their tenants,’ explained Mr Musgrave.
‘One has done that, they have negotiated with three of their tenants to move them up as part of the exchange.’
The land that the swap provides is flood-free and of greater value than the land being received in exchange by Tweed Council, however, there are also significant costs and requirements needed to be met for the land swap to go ahead. This includes stamp duty, relocation costs, and building the facilities, factories or premises that are required for the business at the new site.
‘They are enjoying the benefit of a parcel of flood-free land which is significantly more expensive than the land they are on,’ said Mr Musgrave.
‘There is no money being transferred between Council and the land owners. As part of the criteria, businesses had to give us an undertaking that they would try to grow their business in the future and employ local people. They are also unable to sell the land within a five-year period.’
It is understood that two businesses approached the State government to seek a reduction or removal of the stamp duty but were refused.
‘I believe small businesses are the lifeblood of our communtiy,’ said Mr Musgrove.
‘Without them, we don’t get the goods and services we want like trusses for houses, coffee, mechanics – these businesses employ us, they create that circulation of money within the community. I believe it is a very worthy project.’
Williams Group Australia General Manager Lyndon Poirrier said the long-time Murwillumbah company was looking forward to moving to the new site.
‘This project is an opportunity to future-proof a number of our businesses to ensure we continue our great contribution to the local economy which we have done since our establishment in 1935,’ Mr Poirrier said.
‘This will allow us to pursue the potential for a new state-of-the-art production facility on a flood-free, worry-free site, enabling us to explore new options such as world robotics, integrated operating platforms and logistics.
‘It will also allow us to provide our people with a safer working environment into the future, aligning with our desire to live up to our motto to always be “‘one step ahead”.’
‘The lots that we swap, we have no plans for that land other than keeping it as open space, as a flood corridor and storage,’ explained Mr Musgrove.
‘By removing the business and buildings in those areas the flood impact will be less on those businesses still there.’
If you are interested in participating in the second round of expressions of interest in the land swap you can register your interest with Senior Economic Development Officer Kym Kranen on 6670 2422 or email: [email protected].