With both local and state government elections in 2024, we will see leadership changes happening at both levels of government. This is major pivot point. A time to reflect on where we are as a state and a region, looking beyond the headline numbers to the qualities we require in our leaders and the style of leadership we need to provide the economic wealth and social cohesion we expect and will require to continue to be a successful region.
Whilst the state election is in October 2024, the changing of the guard has already commenced with new Labor Premier Steven Miles taking over the reins from Annastacia Palaszczuk by the end of the week. We also know that both Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson and Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart will not be standing for local government election in 2024, so the Sunshine Coast region is poised for change.
Both local government areas have different growth and development aspirations and constraints, and both are determined to protect the natural environment and lifestyle whilst consolidating an innovative economic future and strong cohesive communities. The people of the Sunshine Coast are aware of the benefits of living in the region – lifestyle, community, weather, environment, beaches and hinterland, sports and outdoor activities. What we need, as one of the fastest growing populations in Queensland and Australia, are leaders with vision and strategies and, most importantly, the ability to garner community support to implement those strategies.
High population growth has already placed great pressure on our economic and social infrastructure and the lack of vision and funding by state and federal governments to deliver the infrastructure essential to support this population growth, has been frequently played out in the media and advocated to all three tiers of government by industry groups such as SCBC. The Business Council understands it is not easy and we are not suggesting it is. However, too much time as been lost by the three tiers of government not agreeing regional infrastructure priorities and not committing, or upholding funding commitments to deliver priority infrastructure. The blame game needs to stop.
Aside from the investment in the Bruce Highway, this region has repeatedly experienced road and rail funding commitments being changed, deferred or cancelled. What hasn’t changed is the population growth projected for this region, and on that measure alone, it demands immediate funding for those transport projects previously committed to – whichever tier or colour of government.
At a local level, we wish the outgoing mayors all the best for their next endeavours as we head to the polls in March 2024 to select two new mayors to take the region into the next period of growth. We need to take into account each mayoral candidate’s suitability for the role, including their ability to lead and listen; to communicate their vision, strategies, ideas and benefits; to bring communities together; to be strong advocates for the region with other levels of government and to work hand-in-hand with the business community to advocate for infrastructure and funding to support sustainable growth.
Most of all, our new mayors must be able and prepared to stand above the politics and ensure council staff deliver those community services that are the remit of councils, efficiently and effectively.
There are tough decisions to be made in the next election cycle at both state and local government levels to deal with the housing affordability and availability crisis; ensure water security in changing climate conditions and to deliver much-needed investment to protect our region’s desirable quality of life.
The residents of the Sunshine Coast region have very important leadership choices to make over the next 12 months given that at the following election cycle we will be just four years from hosting an Olympic Games and we will already be accommodating more than 400,000 people in the region.
We would like to encourage every eligible voter to do their research on the candidates to understand their policies and to have their say in these important elections for our region.