The purpose of the workshop, which engaged with around 30 Sunshine Coast Business Council (SCBC) members, was to finalise the group’s advocacy agenda for the year ahead.

The workshop focused on the Business Council’s 2023 theme ‘Creating the environment to unleash private sector investment and deliver regional economic growth for the next decade and beyond’.

As part of the agenda, the SCBC presented research undertaken during 2022, which included gaining a better understanding of the regional pipeline of major projects as well as an investor market survey.

With input from representatives of the three tiers of government and industry, SCBC first developed the pipeline of major projects in early 2020, to guide monthly discussions between regional government and industry leaders on how COVID-19 could impact investment flow in the Sunshine Coast region, including job losses.

The regional pipeline of major projects is now maintained by Urbis — one of Australia’s largest privately-owned urban consultants — and is considered the most comprehensive list of Sunshine Coast regional private and public sector projects above $50m.  It identified more than $20.5b of projects currently under construction, with more than $17b of that investment spread over 15-20 years, generating an estimated 40,000 operational jobs on completion.

A further $2.35b in projects have Council development approval, but are awaiting investor decisions to proceed.  Finally, the pipeline also identified $6b of potential projects mooted (currently identified but still requiring commitment by either government and or private investors) including heavy rail between Beerwah and Maroochydore, mass transit, the Sunshine Coast Airport Terminal redevelopment, a potential Sunshine Coast Stadium upgrade, construction of a basketball stadium, an entertainment and convention centre and the 2032 Olympic Games village. For these projects, operational jobs are currently estimated to be more than 2,000 on completion.

During October to December 2022, Urbis also undertook an investor market survey to ascertain investor interest and investigate perceptions of the region as an investment location.  This survey found that investors see the Sunshine Coast as a positive place to invest when considered against investment criteria including strong population growth; demographic and market profiles; strength of demand and ability to achieve target rates of return.

These positive indicators, however, could be limited by investment constraints, if not properly addressed, such as lack of ease of business in terms of planning matters; how the planning scheme is implemented; timeliness and delays in decision making; influence of minority community voices and the lack of access to Councillors.

Similarly, access to labour during development, and for ongoing operations such as aged care facilities and hotels, poses a serious risk to investment for regional projects.  Investors consider Maroochydore City Centre, Sunshine Coast Airport and Aura as standout projects for their impact on growing and diversifying the region and the survey found that clear investment policy and planning schemes are key areas to get right in order to facilitate investment. This includes residential and industrial land supply, growth areas and density, as well as protection areas.

Furthermore, investors identified that the promotion of the region’s vision, strengths and growth policies is important to attract national and international investors.

These findings were presented by Urbis Director Paul Riga, who was followed on the workshop agenda by Craig Matheson from Sunshine Coast Council, speaking to Sunshine Coast Council’s recently released ‘10+10 vision’ and work being undertaken with industry leaders to identify the next generation of major projects.

Will Shrapnel, Chair UNESCO Biosphere Sunshine Coast Reference Group, also covered the environmental and economic benefits of the new Sunshine Coast biosphere to the region.

Download the agenda here