While the COVID-19 health crisis is largely deemed under control, the extent of the economic crisis that has crippled some industries in our region is only just becoming evident.
Government support has been essential in assisting those treading water as they wait for restrictions to ease and – in particular tourism and hospitality – the essential re-opening of our borders.
The real challenge will only be understood as JobKeeper and other stimulus initiatives start being phased out. This is when the true economic impact of this pandemic will reveal itself.
So, how do we as a region work collaboratively through short- and long-term challenges in order to reboot our local economy as swiftly as possible?
As the leading regional business advocacy group on the Sunshine Coast representing about 4000 businesses, the Sunshine Coast Business Council has taken a leaf from the Prime Minister’s book in establishing a regional cabinet.
I have been delighted at the willingness of our local political and industry leaders to work as a united front – we put out the call to arms and the response clearly demonstrates the level of commitment to working collaboratively.
Our ‘cabinet’ includes three tiers of government with Ted O’Brien and Andrew Wallace providing federal oversight, and Jarrod Bleijie, Andrew Powell, Fiona Simpson and Sandy Bolton representing state government. Our local councils are represented by Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart and her deputy councillor Frank Wilkie. Sunshine Coast Council has nominated acting CEO Warren Bunker and Craig Matheson. While RDA Sunshine Coast is represented by Carol Cashman.
We also identified the key industries and sectors that will play an important part in our regional recovery including aviation, SMEs including tourism, education, food and agribusiness and the property and building industries, and appointed relevant representatives.
Our primary focus is to retain and create jobs. To this end, our priorities include continuing the call for our borders to re-open to stimulate tourism and hospitality and support small businesses; keeping major infrastructure projects moving; building investor and business confidence to create the jobs needed to
get the region back to work; and building consumer confidence in the region, thereby stimulating spend to support the re-opening of businesses.
Kickstarting our regional economy will require endurance over an extended period of time. Given the calibre of leaders in the room and a genuine shared commitment to keeping people in jobs, I look forward to sharing our outcomes in the months ahead.