Empty office space costing taxpayers $5.5m in lost rent
THE State Government is leasing more than 4000sq m of empty office space in the Ipswich CBD, costing the taxpayer more than $5.5 million in rent since the Newman Government was elected in 2012.
From March 2012 to October last year, the government had spent $5.48 million on rent costs and $218,544 on maintenance costs for vacant office space previously occupied by state public servants in buildings such as the George Thorn Building in Thorn St, Tower Central in Brisbane St and Icon Tower at the corner of Brisbane and Bell streets.
The problem harks back to the Bligh government's plan to decentralise 5600 public servants from the Brisbane CBD, including a commitment to move 1200 positions to Ipswich in 2012.
THE plan, announced in 2008, was estimated to save $188 million over 20 years through reduced leasing costs.
In May 2012 former Housing and Public Works minister Bruce Flegg told The QT the government would uphold the commitment to relocate 1200 staff, adding it would be "a very complex process".
Labor candidate for Ipswich Jennifer Howard said yesterday she believed the government had delivered half that number, with many public servants shifted from existing Ipswich offices, not Brisbane.
"Inhabiting the Icon building is vital for reinvigorating the CBD," Ms Howard said.
"My understanding is that the Icon building hasn't reached capacity and we haven't seen the 1200 public servants move to the town.
"I know for a fact that a lot of the staff in (Icon Tower) have come from other government buildings in Ipswich itself. The George Thorn Building has been sitting empty now for many months."
Answering a question in Parliament late last year from Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller on the issue, Housing and Public Works Minister Tim Mander blamed the former government for the long term lease of the 16,200sq m office space in the Icon Tower.
"The long-term lease ... was undertaken without final commitment of who the long-term tenants would be and what would happen to other leased space in the Ipswich CBD," Mr Mander said.
"The transfer of staff from a city centre to another city is a complex issue and cannot be achieved without significant long-term planning and engagement activities which address the issues employees may have with respect to moving from their workplace of many years."
The Bligh government plan was to relocate 20% of the State Government's Brisbane CBD office space by 2017.
Under a four-staged process, 15,000sq m of office space was to be relocated to Ipswich in 2012 as part of the Ipswich city rejuvenation.