Friday 25 September 2020

Coronavirus creates property boom on Southern Moreton Bay Islands as owners take advantage of home-builder grants

It has long been known as a haven for retirees and those seeking the cheapest land in South East Queensland, but the Southern Moreton Bay Islands have seen a renewed interest in a COVID-19 property market.

Property sales on Russell Island have effectively tripled in the last three months, while it is estimated that building activity has doubled.

Real estate agent Chris McGregor said historically around 350 blocks would sell on the islands per year, but judging from monthly figures, sales were nearly three times higher.

It is not uncommon to see bush blocks advertised as low as $16,000 on Russell Island.

Cleared land and waterfront property are more expensive, but still a fraction of the price of equivalent land on the mainland.

“We have people who sell up in capital cities, and come and buy their house outright with money left over, and we also have a lot of owner builders,” he said.

A workman wearing yellow works on construction site with wired fence and wooden frame of house.
Building activity on Queensland’s Russell Island has doubled over the past three months.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Mr McGregor said property prices were rising before the pandemic, but are now at their lowest since 2007.

Mr McGregor believes the $25,000 home-builder grants that were announced as part of coronavirus economic stimulus packages are driving land sales.

Zoning, planning hold islands back

John Bonett runs an earthmoving and tree-clearing business based on Macleay Island, while servicing all of the Southern Moreton Bay Islands.

He said the demand for his services had gone up, but complexities around zoning and moving machinery between islands had made the job difficult.

He said he is worried issues around infrastructure and planning could limit the region’s growth.

The company is operating out of residential areas, with very limited industrial zoned land on Macleay Island.

covid creates property boom
John Bonett, right, says demand for his earthmoving and tree-clearing business is on the increase.(ABC: Baz Ruddick)

“At this stage, we are working out of home … and the best we can do at the moment is scatter the machines around to different employees, until we can work out what to do to better it,” Mr Bonett said.

“We have nearly 20 people working for us, and I like to think we are doing our bit for the community with keeping those people employed.

“But it is getting harder and harder when I am not only battling the everyday costing of quoting and controlling the crew, but battling neighbours and council.

“If we were having our base camp on the mainland, for example, we would be bringing people over.

“That would be taking money off the islands where we want the infrastructure to grow … we want better shops, service stations and facilities for the kids.”

queensland property
Infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the growing population of Queensland’s Southern Moreton Bay Islands.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Many of the roads on the islands remain unsealed, while there is no kerb and channel drainage and no access to sewage, with every new house built having to put in a septic tank.

“If people find it too hard to build here and too complicated and expensive, they will stop building and put properties back on the market.

“So, instead of seeing a housing boom like we are now, we will see a housing slump.”

How many new residents is too many?

construction boom
Redland City Councillor Mark Edwards says he has witnessed a construction boom in his area.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Redland City Councillor Mark Edwards said the area had been “chasing its tail” with infrastructure since the islands were transferred from the State Government administration to the Redland City Council.

“Probably in the last eight years we have done a lot of investment into the islands, which has been a double-edged sword, because when people come out to have a look, they see all the infrastructure that has been built, and that is driving our population growth up more,” he said.

“The biggest fear for the community is, ‘When does our population get too big?’.”

He said the population had already outgrown infrastructure.

“We have a program that has been ongoing for a number of years to seal our roads,” he said.

creates property boom
The $25,000 home-builder grants have driven the construction boom on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

“We have about 35 kilometres of roads left, and hopefully that will be done in the next three or four years.

“The biggest fear is sewage. We are on septic here, and we know that when we get to certain levels of density those types of systems can’t cope, so we need to look at sewerage and who is going to pay for that.

“When you put sewerage into a place the population goes up again because you get density.”

Mr Edwards said the community needed to have a public discussion about what they would like in the future.

This article is republished from under a Creative Commons license.  read the original article.

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