Following the Global Financial Crisis, it took several years for most businesses to get back to anything like their previous normal. What we are going through now is far more challenging – the double whammy of a health and an economic crisis unfolding simultaneously.
Our Federal Government has taken the brunt of political and financial risk and in our view is doing a good job on both the health and economic fronts. The various targeted stimulus packages are providing a grounding for economic recovery and their cautious focus is squarely on getting the economy into a position to revive.
The Queensland State Government is presiding over arguably the worst economically performing state and needs to pivot quickly and do much more on the economic front. A media statement on 16 June by Treasurer, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, The Honourable Cameron Dick included the following statements:
“The State has been working hand in hand with local government to ensure there are no roadblocks standing in the way of construction as they chart a pathway forward following this unprecedented global pandemic,” Mr Dick said.
“We have been doing the heavy lifting to ensure private investment is unlocked to provide the critical jobs boost this state needs to emerge from this pandemic stronger.
“Queensland has led the nation with its planning and development approval system, and we have not seen any failure to meet timelines during COVID-19.
“We have also worked hard to make sure that our planning system evolves to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 with e lodgement and other legislative changes to expedite these processes.”
We have seen the Sunshine Coast and Noosa Councils working hard in the community, responding to COVID-19 impacts to keep businesses operating and people working. This includes initiatives such as bringing forward their own capital works programs and projects.
However, on Thursday 23 July 2020 Sunshine Coast Council’s Planning and Economic Development staff were let down by their Councillors when eight of ten Councillors (Mayor Jamieson was not in the room) ignored the recommendation of their planning team and — in the opinion of the Sunshine Coast Business Council Board — did not work in the best interest of our regional economy.
Councillors ignored the advice and guidance of their own Senior Technical Planning Officers — who are well paid and highly qualified to make these assessments — and voted against the Twin Waters development application despite Council officers determining that it either met or exceeded Council’s Planning Scheme requirements. These councillors included Cr Dickson, the former Planning Portfolio Councillor and Cr O’Pray one of two Economic Development Portfolio Councillors.
Particularly galling were not only the statements made by Councillors throughout the discussion to justify their decision, but rather what was absent from the discussion – the horrendous impacts of COVID-19 already obvious in this economy and the plight of the unemployed, under-employed and the youth in our region.
We are operating under extremely tough economic conditions. Conditions that we have not experienced before and probably will not see again in our lifetime. At this time every job is precious and represents one less Sunshine Coast family facing uncertainty and severe financial and mental stress.
This decision — which is working in the opposite direction to that signalled in June by the State Treasurer — will be a major blow to investor confidence which is already relatively low in this region.
In the 16 June Media release, supporting the State Treasurer, Mayor Jamieson said:
“Councils remain committed to working with all tiers of government to support the building and construction industry and the resurgence of local economies, through COVID-19 and beyond, by maintaining high levels of service delivery, managing risks to public health and safety and facilitating appropriate development outcomes within statutory timeframes.
“It is this focus and determination that gives investors the confidence and the certainty they need.
“We reject any suggestion councils are standing in the way of Australia’s economic recovery.
“The reality is that councils are on the front line working every day to keep their local economies functioning.”
For several years Mayor Jamieson has made much of the regional project pipeline underpinning economic and job growth for a decade to come. He has requested and received the support from the business community to deliver on the Regional Economic Development Strategy, and yet more and more we are seeing development proposals being pushed to the State Government or courts for determination, which impacts heavily on investor confidence, despite the Mayor’s claims.
On Thursday 23 July Councillors acted with no apparent consideration for the current state of our regional economy, the decade and journey ahead to get employment back on track, or the financial and health pressure unemployment and insolvency puts on our citizens.
This at a time when we need to seize every opportunity to stimulate economic recovery, to save and create jobs and to reduce the financial and mental stress of our people.
The Sunshine Coast Business Council is the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast. It represents approximately 4,000 businesses through its membership, which includes key national and regional industry groups and their members as well as national and regional businesses.
For more information please visit www.scbusinesscouncil.com.au.
Media contact: Maya Gurry, Fresh PR & Marketing P: 0410 109 102 E: firstname.lastname@example.org