With COVID-19 restrictions starting to lift, our attention has now turned from survival to creating stimulus packages for the longer-term economic recovery needs of Cairns.
The Industry and Business Reference Group (IBRG), which Advance Cairns established in March, includes 50 local business and industry representatives from 17 industry sectors who meet monthly to formulate recommendations presented to Cairns Regional Council’s Economic Response and Recovery Sub-Committee (ERRSC). The ERRSC includes Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Advance Cairns, Cairns Regional Council (CRC), TTNQ, Regional Development Australia, Cairns Airport and Ports North who work together as a collective voice to Local, State and Federal Government decision makers.
Many of the recommendations we have put together regarding business survival initiatives have been acted on by all three tiers of government. Among the recommendations put forth by ERRSC that have been implemented by CRC include $2.5 million for maintenance works, the waiving of rental fees for businesses leasing Council facilities and extensions of a range of business fees, to name a few.
ERRSC has also helped carry out initiatives from the Queensland Government that include $1 million for Cairns’ marketing campaign, payroll tax relief, small and medium business power bill relief, worker support package, $2.3 million package to support port business across the Far North and $3.5 million for a Mulgrave Road to Brown Street upgrade, to name only a handful.
Our voice on the Federal Government level has also been included in the government’s wide range of relief and support packages such as the $198 million Regional Air Network Package, $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through local governments and $1.3 billion to support small businesses to support the jobs of around 120,000 apprentices and trainees. Of course, this just scratches the surface of what is being offered to support business and investment growth.
Industry organisations such as ourselves, TTNQ and the Chamber of Commerce are also pushing through their individual channels and advocating the initiatives through their connections too, so it’s all hands to the wheel at the moment to try and get as much as we out of the State and Federal Government to support the region.
The most important things that matter the most right now in terms of the Cairns economy is the extension of JobKeeper beyond the end of September, the freeing up of aviation access and a greater promotion to the Australian market to get domestic visitors here again. These are the biggest things that will make the largest impact to our economy over the next three to six months. Beyond that we need government setting up and signing up to a range of infrastructure projects to directly create jobs.
A preliminary stimulus report presented to the Local Leadership Committee (LLC) highlights the recommended projects, policies and programs needed to support economic recovery and job creation in the region over the short to medium term. The list was compiled following consultation with industry over the past few months.
These include individual projects and government-funded programs that would contribute to economic recovery and job creation and relevant policy changes that would support this.
The list of shovel-ready projects we put forward included CQUniversity new city centre campus, Cairns University Hospital, Cairns Gallery Precinct, Stage 2 CQUniversity Asia Pacific Aviation Hub, Wangetti Trail, HMAS Cairns upgrade, Cairns Marine Maintenance Precinct, Cairns Esplanade Dining Precinct and Norther Beaches Leisure Trail.
The type of unity from Local, State and Federal Government that you would hope for is occurring. We have all three levels of government working closer together than they have done. We see business and industry working with those levels of government as closely as they have ever done. It’s a recognition that we have to put aside any traditional differences that we may have for the greater good to maximise the benefits we might get out of Federal and State Governments for this region.
Everyone recognises that we’ve got to find a way forward collectively because this is a world-wide phenomenon that is going to be difficult to work our way back from, from an economic point of view.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take time, but there will be a bright future. Don’t give up on Cairns. It has some challenges, but it has some tremendous strengths as well.