“It is an embarrassment”.
That’s the opinion of one councillor towards the newly adopted Central Coast Economic Development Strategy 2020-2040 and its accompanying Economic Recovery and Resilience Framework.
The council adopted the strategy and the associated framework but not without a spray from Cr Bruce McLachlan.
The strategy is Council’s long-term vision in which the Central Coast will welcome nearly 88,000 new residents, grow the economy by over $21B, and create over 72,000 new jobs from the pre-COVID-19 baseline by 2040.
The framework is Council’s response to the added pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic and is meant to balance Council’s own needs as a medium-sized business that must continue to deliver a large number of essential services to the community with the needs of the community that often uses the Council as its first port of call in times of emergency.
But Cr McLachlan condemned the Council for its economic record.
“We’d actually be past our first term and not actually produced an economic development strategy,” he said, referring to the fact the council’s terms was extended by 12 months because of COVID.
“You’ve left out things you could go forward with, you’ve crashed major projects, and right here tonight your attitude is your attitude and the first thing you do is take out the word developer – you don’t want to deal with developers yet they’re actually the ones that bring in the money, they’re the ones that actually get things going.
“It wouldn’t matter what you put up, it’s just lip service, we’re just going through the whole process and bearing in mind if it wasn’t for COVID half of us wouldn’t even be sitting here and you would have spent a whole term and not even done an economic strategy.
“I mean on an economic development front it’s been embarrassing, absolutely embarrassing,
“This region has got one of the lowest socio-economic incomes, jobs – we are so poor on the economic front and yet we’ve dragged our tail through this whole term to get to this point and then to start pulling it apart.
“It wouldn’t matter what you put up tonight, I’m not impressed with it, and I think the community’s not impressed with it … not one bit.
“The one thing this Council needs to get its act together on is the economic front and we’ll just sit here tonight and defer major projects, you’ve already (deferred for) two site inspections that two or three councillors will turn up to and that will add another two or three weeks delay to the major project.
The motion to adopt the strategy had been the subject of last minute amendments from Cr Jane Smith.
Cr Chris Holstein joined a chorus of councillors who said they were frustrated with late changes to agenda recommendations.
But Cr Smith said she had replaced the words “local developers” with the words “peak bodies” to allow for good governance around those dealings.
She said her changes to the recommendation would ensure the focus was on projects that would be supported because everyone backed them.
Cr Kyle MacGregor said the strategy should have been done years ago and said the focus needed to extend beyond Gosford.
“We don’t need to pour all the money into Gosford CBD,” he said.
“We have about 14 different town centres that do need to have money going in there and with COVID we have seen a lot of people going to their local shops and focussing on their local suburbs so it’s important that we don’t leave areas like Wyong behind and that these town centres are also receiving attention.”
The framework says the council will remove red tape; make information easier to access and comprehend; connect business with consumers and each other; draw more visitors and investors to the Central Coast.
The Economic Development Strategy has 37 priority actions planned over a 5-year implementation road map and include growth corridor development strategies and development strategies for Urban Release Areas and to enhance local infrastructure with smart technology to increase efficiency, connectivity and capacity.
Many of the actions include preparing other strategies such as a Central Coast Transport Strategy, and to explore options such as super-fast digital connectivity for the Central Coast (including optic fibre, mobile, and wireless networks) and to work with peak bodies (rather than local developers) to modernise planning processes and requirements to future-proof new developments.