At this morning’s consultation meeting in Nanango … from left, Mayor Wayne Kratzmann, Nina Temperton (CTC), Graham Archdall (Heritage), consultant Neil McPhillips, Kingaroy businessman Ken Mills and South Burnett Regional Council CEO Ken McLoughlin 

December 6, 2012

A new peak economic and tourism development board made up of businesspeople and community leaders from throughout the South Burnett looks likely following two consultation meetings organised by the South Burnett Regional Council today.

The idea, dubbed “South Burnett Directions”, was endorsed this morning at a meeting held at Nanango RSL Club; and again at a meeting this evening at the Murgon PCYC.

At both, invited guests heard presentations from South Burnett Regional Council CEO Ken McLoughlin, SBRC Economic Development Manager Phil Harding and private economic development consultant Neil McPhillips about the “black art” of economic development and the demographic and economic challenges facing the region.

Mayor Wayne Kratzmann said the South Burnett used to have 37 councillors but after amalgamation there were just seven to run the same huge area.

“We don’t have all the answers. There are a lot of people out there who will never be a councillor, who will never want to be a councillor,” he said. “We need to tap into these people to make the South Burnett a better place.”

The new body – which would be set up as a “beneficial enterprise” under the Local Government Act rather than as a separately incorporated association – would be made up of between seven and 10 people “who can work alongside the council to make the South Burnett better and more vibrant”.

It would work alongside existing bodies such as Chambers of Commerce without replacing them.

Mr McLoughlin said local government can’t “do” economic development but it can help to remove the roadblocks.

He said it was inevitable that an upturn in the economy would occur: “How are we going to position ourselves for that upturn so we can go forward?”

Some of the challenges facing the region included a high “dependency rate”, ie less than one in two people are actually working, a flattening regional growth rate and an unemployment rate slightly above the national average (ie 6.6 per cent).

Mr Harding said the proposed new organisation would consist of “unpaid community leaders” who would help guide significant projects for the region. It would be resourced by council and would be tasked to deliver tangible benefits that meet key performance indicators.

It would also have four advisory committees based on the State Government’s “Four Pillar” approach to the economy, ie Tourism, Agriculture, Resources and Construction.

The membership of the Board would be “skills-based” and from “diverse locations”, although the members would not represent any one town or industry sector.

The set-up phase could occur reasonably quickly but then the initial phase could take up to 24 months. After this, the Board would then shift into an operational phase.

The council would advertise for the applicants, and also approach selected people, to sit on the new advisory body.

“The hardest thing will be to get people with the right expertise and the right motives who can work together for the region. This is the reason why we will be taking our time,” Mr Harding said.

Consultant Neil McPhillips, from regional development agency Starfire Solutions, said the new group should agree on four major projects that can deliver an outcome and make a difference.

He said Board members would need to have strong external contacts and strong political contacts. They would also need to establish a code of conduct and have a good understanding of both real and perceived conflicts of interest.

Mr Harding also told the meetings that his office would relocate into the vacant room at the front of the Kingaroy Library in January (the area which had been earmarked for a cafe).

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney would be invited to open this facility in February.

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