Connectivity key to supporting a strong community during 2020
  • Tuesday 08 December 2020

The Sunshine Coast community has proven to be our most important asset in the region’s response to the impacts of COVID-19, according to Mayor Mark Jamieson.

Mayor Jamieson acknowledged the efforts of the community at today’s (December 8) annual State of our Region event saying by working together and looking out for each other we had developed a more resilient and connected community.

This year’s State of our Region was for the first time, hosted as a digital event and showcased the region’s achievements and milestones during 2020.

Mayor Jamieson joined council’s new CEO Emma Thomas, Huddle Insurance chief operating officer Andrew Carey, IFYS executive manager for community services Vicky Meyer and young biodiversity leader Ella Woodborne to discuss the events of 2020.

“Our region had responded to a set of conditions never before seen in our lifetime and I know that 2020 will be a year that will be well remembered for its unprecedented challenges - but hopefully also for some of the connectivity milestones that our Sunshine Coast achieved this year,” Mayor Jamieson said.

 “What is most inspiring however, is the way in which our community came together, acted in the best interests of each other and united to face those challenges.

“If this year has taught us anything, it’s that connectivity is vital to strengthening and supporting our community. 

“Community connectivity has been a number one priority for our council as we have focused on keeping our residents in touch with vital information and services and indeed, with each other. 

 “We have also set a clear path to assist local businesses get back on their feet as the COVID-19 restrictions ease and achieved some significant milestones in our efforts to preserve our natural environment and the liveability of our region.

 “Our region’s new international standard runway opened in June, Queensland’s first direct international data and telecommunications connection to global markets was commissioned in March and just last month (19 November) we announced an agreement for our new Maroochydore City Centre which will deliver $2.5 billion worth of private sector investment and over 15,000 jobs to the region over the life of that project.

 “These three projects alone represent a substantial investment in the future prosperity, connectivity and economic resilience of our Sunshine Coast – both for the residents of today and for future generations.

 “More than anything else however, we have focussed on keeping people safe, seeing our residents back into jobs, supporting our local businesses and community organisations to do what they do best and getting our Sunshine Coast back on track to being a healthy, smart, creative region.

 “Sunshine Coast residents across the board have played a crucial role in community safety and in supporting the build-back of our local businesses and I want to offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in managing the impacts of COVID-19,” he said.

“I particularly also want to acknowledge the efforts of our frontline health, police and emergency services personnel who have been unfaltering in their efforts to safeguard our community.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, the COVID-19 impacts on our residents and on our region’s economy have been profound and that is why council moved early in March to respond to the public health directions and at the same time, introduce a wide variety of assistance and stimulus measures to local businesses, industry and community organisations.

“We always seek to put the interests of our community first and with this in mind, council’s June budget provided financial relief for General Rate ratepayers through a $35 COVID rebate, and no increase to the Environment, Transport and Heritage levies.

“Our council also put in place an economic resurgence plan which will remain adaptable to changing circumstances so that we can be fully responsive to the best opportunities to facilitate the region’s economic recovery.

“Council kept our community socially connected during times of isolation with our COVID Kindness campaign and our community spirit shone bright throughout the year with locals joining the driveway Dawn Service to mark ANZAC Day.

“Council increased its grants program initially in May to include an additional $360,000 COVID-19 community response grant, to help community groups in urgent financial need to continue the important work they do.

“We backed this up again in June in council’s budget, providing a further $1.5 million to council’s community grants to help support community groups recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In response to an increase in the incidence of homelessness during the pandemic, council worked in partnership with local community groups and the Department of Housing and Public Works, to assist more than 300 individuals and families by transforming the Sunshine Coast Stadium into a temporary Community Hub.

“To see our community groups and the tiers of government working together to help some of the most vulnerable in our community was a very real example of our Community Strategy vision of Together we Thrive, in action,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“We also should not forget that for nearly five months this year, our Sunshine Coast was on the national stage every week as the home base for the NRL premiership winners, the Melbourne Storm.

“Due to our council’s long standing relationship with the Storm, the club chose to base itself on our Sunshine Coast in order to participate in the 2020 COVID-19 NRL season.

“This decision alone has paid great dividends, providing the opportunity for our NRL loving community to see six fixture matches here at home on our Sunshine Coast.

“It also led to consistent promotion of the Sunshine Coast across Queensland and beyond and put our region in the minds of those people looking to travel when they are able to do so.

“Importantly, it significantly advanced our case to secure funding for the $68 million, Stage 1 expansion of the Sunshine Coast Stadium – with the Queensland Government committing the $20 million our council sought in the lead up to the recent State election.

“From hosting NRL competition matches to our Sunshine Coast Lightning team making the semi-finals for the fourth year – there have been some great sporting highs for 2020.”

Mayor Jamieson said council’s commitment to the natural environment continued to remain as strong as ever during 2020.

“The Sunshine Coast’s native vegetation increased to 124,872 hectares, representing 55 per cent of our local government area, which is a great achievement for a rapidly growing community like the Sunshine Coast,” he said.

“Council now supports 9,118 hectares of habitat for conservation under council’s Land for Wildlife Program and through the expansion of our council conservation estate to more than 7000 hectares.

“As part of our Australian-first Blue Heart Sunshine Coast partnership, we’ve incorporated more of that area into public ownership and dedicated it to conservation, rehabilitated waterways.

“In keeping with our national leadership credentials in this space, council also facilitated a Blue Carbon research forum to investigate economic opportunities for private landholders and created community spaces.”

If you missed today’s State of our Region 2020 address, you can watch the event on our YouTube channel or watch the video at council’s website

Key actions to assist our community:

  • $0 rates increase for the majority of ratepayers

  • In line with council’s buy-local policy, this year council has spent $268 million with local suppliers

  • Faster payments to our 7200 suppliers, which was put in place in March and injecting money into our local economy sooner

  • $4.8 million in community grants awarded

  • $5 million awarded to not-for-profit organisations and individuals, such as environmental landholders, as a significant social investment in our region

  • Council kept our public spaces safe by providing 1762 additional cleaning services and installing 465 soap dispensers in public amenities

  • Council libraries received 1.4 million visitors, with 1.8 million items loaned during 2020, with new “Click and Collect” services established to help customers to continue to access library collections during the height of the public health directions

  • Venue 114 recognised for its sustainability commitment by EarthCheck – the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for travel and tourism

  • Maleny Library received fresh new look and more than 116,800 people came through its doors over the past year

  • Progressed the ‘Our Resilient Coast. Our Future’ project by developing the DRAFT Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy, a long-term plan to help us manage the impacts of coastal hazards on our coastline and our communities into the future

  • Sunshine Coast Design Book, guiding the delivery of buildings, streets and spaces that embody the look and feel of our Sunshine Coast, has won three national awards.

  • Caloundra Regional Gallery celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Image left to right: CEO Emma Thomas, Andrew Carey, Vicky Meyer, Ella Woodborne, Caroline Hutchinson and Mayor Mark Jamieson.