Latrobe leads poor housing figures in Gippsland

THE Latrobe Valley recorded Gippsland’s biggest fall in new home approvals last year during a region-wide housing market slump.

In figures published online by the Building Commission, Victoria’s statutory building authority, domestic building approvals in Latrobe City fell 30 per cent in the 2011 calendar year, dropping from 980 in 2010 to 689.

This comes as Gippsland recorded an overall decrease of 22 per cent in domestic building approval permits over the same period, from 4950 to 3900.

Latrobe City manager built and natural environment sustainability Peter Quigley downplayed the Valley’s poor figures.

He said the decline should be viewed in the context of past performances.

“Over the past five years Latrobe has been consistently leading those approvals (in Gippsland) over that period of time; the one year where we see that decrease needs to be seen against that good performance,” Mr Quigley said.

According to the new figures, East Gippsland experienced the next highest drop, recording a 25 per cent decrease in new dwellings on the previous year, while South Gippsland was least affected, with a decrease of 10 per cent.

This comes after 800 hectares of residential land was released in the Valley’s major towns early last year, equating to potentially 3500 new lots; however, there has been scant progress in housing construction activity in any of these parcels.

Master Builders Association Victoria executive director Brian Welch said while he had no intimate knowledge of Latrobe City’s planning policy particulars, he said Latrobe’s poor figures could be the result of local government policies ‘fraught’ with problems.

“(The Gippsland housing market) is seeing the same conditions across the board … this would suggest to me there are development processes which are non-conducive to builders doing their jobs,” Mr Welch said.

However, this was dismissed by Latrobe City manager city planning Chris Wightman, who said council was committed to the sustainable growth of Latrobe’s housing market.

He said the large drop in new dwellings could be explained by the lull of activity after a spike in bushfire reconstruction activity in the area in 2010.