Economic Recovery Plan/ Events Strategy
The only way Bass Coast can recover from the economic blow the Pandemic caused, is by bringing in as many tourists as possible, as soon as possible. Events in the Shire are the reason tourists come, for the most part. Yes, the Penguin Parade and Nature Parks brings in buses of international tourists for most of the year. However, the big spenders in our Shire are the people who come down for events such as MotoGP, Island Classic, New Years’ Eve, etc. They buy souvenirs, food and stay in our accommodation.
To this end I propose developing an
Economic Recovery Plan focused around an Events Strategy. I believe that we need to start
creating more small events into the Shire, bringing in 50-500 people at a time, over as many weekends as possible all throughout the year, but particularly in the off-peak months.We also need to realise that we will be in competition with all the other Tourist destinations who will also be attempting to attract as many tourists as possible to their own Shire after the Pandemic. We need to have an incentive for people to come here specifically, and lots of places have pretty beaches and nice cafes. By hosting a wide variety of events, targeted to specific niche groups, we will stand a better chance of Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery.We are not talking about large Grand Prix size events here, but small events in the Arts and Culture categories.
Emergency Pandemic Budget
The current Council’s Draft Budget has allocated 28 million dollars to the Capital Works Program. 7 million is allocated to Planning for the Aquatic Centre and the Cowes Cultural Centre. So that’s 7 million dollars to architects who will almost certainly be from outside the Shire. This stimulates exactly zero jobs in our existing Covid-damaged economy and this is unacceptable.
The Draft Council Budget seems to me to be one that would have been presented regardless of COVID-19 and Council is
using the Developers’ Mantra of ‘but it will create jobs!’ to implement a budget that attempts to lock the incoming Council into decisions which will have virtually zero immediate economic benefit at a time when local economic assistance and stimulus is exactly what is needed.
I propose an Emergency Pandemic Budget which minimizes all non-urgent works and certainly all Consultancies, Invitations to Tender, and so on. A Budget which defers all Capital Works not Safety related or necessary for organizational continuity. Assuming the proposed Rate Rise is still adopted this will free up space in the budget to more seriously consider Rate Relief for commercial ratepayers. This is what they’re asking for, this is what they need and this is what will assist them to increase the number of staff they re-employ and the frequency of shifts of those who still have or regain employment.
This will directly stimulate the local tourism and hospitality businesses that our residents rely on for an income.
It is within this Framework that my Economic Recovery Plan and Events Strategy would operate.
In other words, I propose that discretionary spending should be focused on economic stimulus, whether that be Rate Relief or Targeted Stimulus.
Expanding and Future-Proofing the Economy
The economy is changing with the explosion in communications technology in particular to small businesses in the digital space. The Pandemic has shown us that it is possible for much of our workforce to work from home. We need to adapt to this new sector of the economy and develop Policy which encourages and incentivizes businesses operating in the Digital Economy to establish or relocate here. The goal here is to try and
diversify our economy, growing more small and micro businesses to employ tertiary qualified professionals to. Hopefully this might enable someof our own kids to come back and work here when they’ve finished qualifying at university instead of being forced to work elsewhere and help to future-proof our economy against any unforeseen event like the Pandemic that causes a complete halt to the main sectors of our business community.
Bass Coast Shire needs, with utmost urgency, to adopt a Pay-To-Park system. The only way to reduce reliance on rates is to find alternate sources of revenue. A Pay-To-Park system requires tourists and others to pay to park in any carpark while providing free permits for residents and ratepayers. Once implemented this system will bring in millions each year enabling Council to finally fund projects across the Island.
Financial Sustainability Advisory Group
Council needs to work in tandem with the business community to set up a Financial Sustainability Advisory Group. This group will focus on finding alternate sources of revenue, reconsider the potential for Private/Public Partnerships and examine other alternate funding models to reduce the reliance on Rate Revenue.