The Sunshine Coast is reaching a maturity unlike anything we have ever seen before and the world is watching with great interest.
Terry Ryder, the founder of Hotspotting.com.au has described the Sunshine Coast as having Australia’s most compelling story in terms of capital growth and he’s been backed up by the likes of renowned demographer and futurist Bernard Salt in recognising the strong foundations being laid now for a prosperous future.
In fact, the rewards are already being reaped as the Coast became the only location in the southern hemisphere to be recognised in the Top7 Global Intelligent Communities this year for the future region-boosting projects that are building a sustainable platform for continued economic growth and prosperity.
Mr Ryder, who lives in Maleny, says the Sunshine Coast has appeared on several of his “places to avoid, no-go zone” lists in the past and he is pleased to see the region performing so well in a number of different areas.
Given Mr Ryder’s focus on jobs and infrastructure, it’s perhaps unsurprising he sees the Sunshine Coast as the country’s “strongest property market”, beating the likes of Marion in South Australia and the Victorian suburb of Bendigo in his recently-released list of top long to medium-term property investment areas.
Mr Ryder says all the new infrastructure currently being built means improved liveability for local residents. But crucially, it also means more jobs, stronger economic growth, and growing populations. When you combine this with affordable prices, he says the Coast’s story is exceptional in terms of the positive outcomes we are now seeing and will continue to see into the future.
“The Coast has gone from being arguably a tourist town to being recognised by the Global Intelligent Community Forum as an international city of renown in the space of about three years. Of course, there were many events happening behind the scenes for a long time to bring that to fruition, but this image has only just been projected outwardly in the past two to three years,” he says.
The Sunshine Coast is currently one of the strongest performing regions in Queensland, being one of only three of the 77 councils across the state to receive a strong financial sustainability rating from the Queensland Treasury Corporation.
On top of that, more than $20 billion has been invested into major infrastructure projects, including the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, the Maroochydore CBD, the airport expansion, the undersea high-speed internet cable and highway upgrades strengthening economic development and job growth.
The first crane went up in the Maroochydore CBD in November, signalling the start of construction for Foundation Place, the first building to come out of the ground on the 53-hectare greenfield site.
Foundation Place, which is being constructed by Coast-based business Evans Long, is expected to be open for business in late-2020, which is around the same time the Sunshine Coast Submarine Broadband Cable and the International Airport runway are expected to be operational.
Evans Long director Matthew Evans says 2020 will be a massive year in terms of infrastructure milestones for the region.
“We’re on the right track to developing a sustainable, eco-friendly and liveable city,” Mr Evans says.
“The Sunshine Coast is featuring on the world stage being named in the Top 7 Intelligent Communities of 2019 and we can be very proud of how the Coast is maturing and the opportunities this will bring to the region.”
The Sunshine Coast economy has grown substantially to be worth $18.5 billion and Mayor Mark Jamieson says a key focus for the council has been the growth and investment in the high-value industries, particularly knowledge-based industries, professional business services, advanced manufacturing and numerous high-tech start-ups.
“There has been significant business attraction and employment growth on the back of the region-shaping infrastructure projects and private investment generated since the Regional Economic Development Strategy 2013-2033 was created, so while our goals were ambitious, with a great deal of effort, they are proving to be achievable,” he says.
“[Having] the right policy settings to encourage investment and growth in the region’s economy has resulted in significant gains for the region, with average household incomes increasing by some 25 per cent, with over 23,000 jobs created in the last five years in our high-value industries and nearly 18 per cent of all goods and services produced now exported beyond the region.
“This means there is more money to be spent in our community and with our local businesses. This trajectory is expected to continue through our investment in the high-value industries and region-shaping major projects. Our economy has grown from $13.8 billion in 2013 to more than $18 billion last year and we will reach our target of $33 billion by 2033.”
Cr Jamieson says 23,500 additional jobs have been created since 2013 across the high-value industries of food and agribusiness, aviation and aerospace, clean technologies, education and research, health and wellbeing, knowledge and professional services and tourism, sport and leisure.
“We will continue to attract highly-skilled professionals to the region due to our reputation as a highly liveable community offering an array of employment opportunities. Council’s UNESCO biosphere nomination, the announcement of plans to bid for the South East Queensland 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, means leading professionals across many industries strive to come here, to live, work and play, and this will only increase as we continue to bolster our reputation,” he says.
The health and wellbeing industry is the Coast’s largest employer and one of the largest generators of economic activity in the region, employing 25,015 people, or 16.7 per cent of the Coast workforce, according to the online Coast statistics portal Economy ID. Cr Jamieson says the industry is predicted to double its share of the employment market by 2033.
Major residential greenfield developments such as Stockland’s Aura in Caloundra South and AVID Property Group’s Harmony in Palmview will provide vital housing options for the approximately 200,000 new residents set to make the Coast home in the next 20 years. This will keep construction firmly in the top three industries for employment on the Coast, with associated trades accounting for 13.1 per cent of the Coast workforce, followed by retail trade at 12.8 per cent.
In combination, these three industries account for 63,691 people in total or 42.6 per cent of local workers.
“With a nationally awarded university, growing international education market, extensive vocational education and training facilities and a high-performing school system, the education and research sector is predicted to become the region’s second largest employer by 2033,” Cr Jamieson says.
“The Sunshine Coast is now experiencing strong economic growth that exceeds national and state averages, with the international broadband submarine cable expected to further provide the basis for a wide range of new employment options and is forecast to deliver up to $453 million into the economy and 860 jobs over the coming years. Council also anticipates seeing more careers coming to the region in industries such as advanced manufacturing, banking and finance, IT and other big-data users.”
Mr Ryder says economic diversity is drawing in more people looking for work and the positive ripple effect of that has meant demand for property continues to be steady, nurturing increases in median property prices, with many records being set on top-end properties and prices unlike anything we have seen before.
“A tourism economy is very fickle and fragile,” he says. “Now to see the economy diversifying towards a sustainable model will mean we can expect sustainable growth in property prices. There is nowhere else in the country that these tremendous changes are happening.”
In the past, our region lent itself predominantly towards a tourism economy, but the unprecedented infrastructure spending of the past few years has attracted the attention of the nation. More businesses are moving here and experts like Bernard Salt are calling the Sunshine Coast the entrepreneurship capital of Australia.
In his report The Activated City, Imagining the Sunshine Coast in 2040, Mr Salt says the businesses of the future on the Sunshine Coast will be forged by population and urban growth, by the continued transformation of the economy towards knowledge work, and by start-up and relocated businesses setting up shop in lifestyle cities.
“There is a real opportunity to reimagine and reinvent the Sunshine Coast by 2040,” Mr Salt writes in his report. “Not so much a pleasant lifestyle and retirement destination but a bustling knowledge worker hub more connected into Asia than into the commuter orbit of Brisbane.
“The Sunshine Coast of 2040 will be a vastly different city to the city of today. It will be its own city with its own identity and with the capacity to offer its own residents the opportunity to live work study invent and play … all within the local area. Now that is a vision that every Coaster and wannabe Coaster can believe in.”