CRUCIAL SECTOR: Tourism has a bigger role to play in our future than construction of high-rise, says regular correspondent Michael Burgess.
CRUCIAL SECTOR: Tourism has a bigger role to play in our future than construction of high-rise, says regular correspondent Michael Burgess. Brett Wortman

Lack of 'good jobs' our greatest challenge

THE lack of "good jobs” is perhaps the biggest challenge we face on the Sunshine Coast.

Let's accept from the beginning one of the myths Donald Trump dispelled during his election campaign - we won't "innovate” our way out of anything.

In my view innovation is a gambling. Maybe you will hit a winner, but probably not.

It is doubtful you can support a sizeable economy on it as traditional industries are where success is most likely.

We are told 50% of today's jobs won't exist in the future. Maybe so, but much of what people need now they will need and want in the future.

We have a casualised, part-timed employment landscape. The number of "good jobs” is small, industry is not growing proportional to population.

Perhaps 25% of our people have to travel outside the Coast to work and the living standards of many are being eroded.

It is local government that must develop philosophies and plans to create an economy not based on a single short-term industry like construction, but one supported by several pillars of growth.

The problem with home building is it is investment in a passive resource. Once built, they will generate no income for the region.

To a small degree, retirees also help stem a little of this negative outflow as they sell out elsewhere bring their money here. Nevertheless, when they build much of their money leaves our community.

MAKING A STAND: Mr Burgess isn't the only one opposed to development, as the protests against Sekisui's plans at Yaroomba showed.
MAKING A STAND: Mr Burgess isn't the only one opposed to development, as the protests against Sekisui's plans at Yaroomba showed. Mike Garry

Long-term, construction is a negative for a regional economy, so is retail in shopping malls where the goods sold, the profit generated and the rent paid all transfer money from us.

Notwithstanding all this, people want to live in houses and shop at malls, so we must develop a regional economy which will balance these too very large negatives.

Local government is the most important for the everyday life of most people as it controls our physical environment - the state of the roads, the density of the population - and it can create or discourage local industry.

It is to this we must look to develop the community economy we need. If it continues to concentrate in channels which inevitably will bleed us dry, to promote these as good works they have achieved, we face a future bankrupt of hope.  

It is doubtful whether we will ever be a site for heavy industry. I doubt our community would want to see this encouraged and there is no indication we have massive mineral resources.

From what "traditional” businesses will our "exporters” come? It will be tourism, education and food which will provide our future platforms for growth

This region has a unique opportunity to combine two of these to cater to the very best, most profitable and least impactful travel market - the "foodie” tourist.

The beauty of this is that the agriculture and aquaculture we must develop to cater to this, also feeds us and is an exportable commodity to help balance our budget.

There is also a great dependence of this type of tourism on the arts and entertainment industries, the development of these will help nurture our education facilities

It is time our local guys did their job, which is not to engage in fanciful, vanity expenditure on the worse imaginable ideas.

We should not expect great visionaries. Perhaps their level of curiosity is low, they may be insular to any outside ideas, they seem to believe their sole function is to rubber stamp DAs, with as much flexibility for the developers as possible.

The current rising of height levels along the Mooloolaba front on the fallacious premise this must be done to create the five-star accommodation for a "new wave” of tourist, incorporates much misunderstanding and deliberate misinformation.

Five stars has nothing to do with the height of a building. The management and services which go into creating a upscale experience have nothing to do with the economics of the construction.

The builder most often will not be operator of the hotel. The only possible correlation between the height of the building and the accommodation rating is the size of the rooms, but the developer must give a proper argument as to how they will be able to provide five-star sized rooms if allowed these extra floors.

The council is in love with this propaganda paradigm of stringing together a few vacuous positive promises together with unacceptable compromises to create what seems to be an imperative and a considered, well thought-out outcomes.

A series of key words like "jobs”, "five-star”, "tourists” and "Oh, by the way, in order to achieve the first three we must give the developer a windfall profit” is not a reasoned presentation we must swallow, for there is no reason to believe the building wouldn't be built without the relaxation of the existing rules.

There is no reason to believe it wouldn't be five star at the lower height or that it will be five star if it is taller.

There is absolutely no evidence that at whatever stars, it will attract one tourist.

If it won't be built without the changes, we should be told this.

If there is a need for variation, we should be given a reasoned argument about what we will receive for what we give.

I feel greatly troubled that our councillors are deliberating mouthing deceptions, don't understand the consequences of what they are doing or are simply so enamored with bricks and mortar they see it as the only form of development

Yet we need our councillors to be the people who will drive this region to prosperity.

Projects like building a casino, bidding for the Olympics, developing some sort of the "elite jock club” on Lake Kawana supported perhaps by more pokies, the confusion of the viability of the new CBD and the thin rationale for the solar farm, together with the troublesome aspects of the birth of this last "innovation” - these are false starts, negative in their economic impact, some so bad they can only be the product of a bankruptcy of ideas or careless throwaway thinking to fill a press release hole, or are deliberate smokescreens for electioneering with no intention to carry them out.

But this is too important. It is beyond the relevant sphere of activity of the state or federal government. If we want our community to be the best it can be, we must do it ourselves and the instrument we must do it through is the council.

It's time they accepted the obligations they were elected to fulfil.

That they are solely pre-occupied with "buildings”, when these are a long-term negative to our economy, that they have no inspiration to step outside of this to create a bright new world where the industries we create are not full-stops, but rather one which will grow, increase and scale up.

By confining themselves in this small circle of developers/council the probability and frequency of conflict of interest increase, so we see consequently many of our councilors are absenting themselves from critical votes.

The opportunity for leverage by developers increases exponentially, when buildings the only game in town.

We need a "good” economy with "good” jobs and it is time those elected to achieve this, did it.

Michael Burgess is an advocate for community farming and proper economic development for the Coast and is also a regular contributor to the Daily's Opinion pages.

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