The new head of Canberra's business lobby has warned of the risk of raising taxes on property across the ACT.
Archie Tsirimokos who has been elected chairman of the Canberra Business Chamber said he knew of businesses which had seen their rates rise five-fold from $10,000 to $50,000 a year. In general, rates rises were "significant" across the ACT, he said.
Mr Tsirimokos also warned that if taxes on employment were raised excessively, the growth of jobs in the ACT would be blunted. "The more wages you pay, the more payroll tax," he said.
He said businesses would move across the border to New South Wales if the burden got too great.
The chamber says that residential property investors have seen "drastic" increases in rates and land taxes that add up to more than 20 per cent of the rent which landlords receive - and that's a disincentive to invest.
The warning comes as the body Mr Tsirimokos takes over voices concern about the revitalisation of the city centre.
The new chairman said it was "dilapidated".
"We need to have a vibrant city if it's going to draw people in", he said.
People were failing to find the city centre because it was so poorly developed, according to Mr Tsirimokos. "We are finding people saying, 'where is the city-centre?', 'What is the city-centre?'"
The chamber first voiced its concern about the city centre in its submission to the government's 2019-2020 budget where it described the current complex as "not fit for purpose". It said that the redevelopment was the "highest priority for the ACT".
A new theatre complex and sports stadium was needed, according to the chamber, to encourage private sector investment in the territory.
Mr Tsirimokos, a prominent Canberra corporate lawyer, takes over the chairmanship of the chamber as it recruits a new high-powered chief executive, Dr Michael Schaper, who has been deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He also served as the ACT’s first small business commissioner.
The chamber's current deputy chair, Keith Cantlie, and treasurer, Lorcan Murphy, continue in their posts.
Mr Tsirimokos said his priorities were to keep pressing the government and opposition on the needs of business. he would "continue to steer the direction of the board and not change direction in mid-stream".
"It's about getting it right and making sure there's no disincentive to business", he said.
On the payroll tax, he said, "The more wages you pay, the more payroll tax."
Mr Tsirimokos said there had been talk about the Canberra economy relying less on government but "the federal government still had a big role to play in this town".
But he emphasised that private business was also key to a growing and vibrant economy. "We support a broad-based tax regime but it's about getting it right and making sure there's no disincentive to business," he said.
"It's about maintaing a strong and resilient economy", he said.
Last week, a spokeswoman for the ACT government said the chamber's description of the state of the city centre was "a little unkind" but agreed on the need to improve the amenity of the precinct.
She said the renewal authority had been established for that purpose, and was now overseeing an "unprecedented number" of private development and government projects in the city's heart.