Innovation roundup: economic development

Chris_Lewis's picture

Innovation roundup: economic development

This blog post outlines a number of innovative projects happening in local government to support economic development. These case examples demonstrate how local interventions can lead to economic and social dividends, particularly in the context of growing resource scarcity and austerity.

With the Gold Coast struggling with a fall in some residential and commercial property values since the global financial crisis and weak tourism numbers, the Council decided to cut local government charges for developers. This was in an effort to kick-start at least $4 billion in residential and commercial development by removing all local government infrastructure charges for six months, followed by a 50 per cent discount thereafter. However, the relief was capped at $500,000 per development at an expected cost of $16 million.1

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate even considered establishing a lottery to fund the 2018 Commonwealth Games as costs escalated and the Queensland State Government asked the council for an extra $100 million (now $230 million) towards what could be a $2 billion event after an initial estimate of $1 billion. The local government contribution was now six times the $36.9 million the previous council promised for the Games during the bid process.2

There are other excellent productivity initiatives by local governments that are worthy of celebration. In Adelaide's southern suburbs councils (Marion Council and Onkaparinga Council), through the Southern Adelaide Economic Development Board, offered an economic blueprint that hoped to create 14,000 new jobs in the area has been set for the decade to 2021. The Southern Adelaide Economic Development Plan 2011-2021 aimed to connect small, local businesses with large, local infrastructure projects in order to employ people from the region so commuting is reduced and money is distributed locally. This included the desalination plant at Port Stanvac which, assisted by a project spearheaded by the board, ensured that local work amounted to more than half of the total. It was hoped that a similar local contribution would result across the many infrastructure projects on the cards for the south in coming years, including the $407 million duplication of the Southern Expressway.3

In Esperance, which was targeting a doubling of the population over the next 25 years, the Shire of Esperance, the Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission and the Esperance Chamber of Commerce and Industry, developed a 'Growth Plan' as an equal partnership. This resulted in a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) being entered into between the three partners to help guide and maintain this partnership into the future. In consultation with local and regional stakeholders, with key questions being asked in terms of needed skills, resources, necessary regulatory and approvals processes and how private sector investment can be invited and secured to leverage and offset government contributions. The plan would be submitted to the Department of Regional Development and Lands by identifying a range of different priority projects for the town, including the three that were awarded funding earlier this year: $12.65 million for the waterfront development, $380,000 for a town centre revitalisation project, and $193,350 for a program to enhance the town's economic development. Read more »

Wodonga City Council, where manufacturing is largest industry sector, developed the 'Youth To Industry' project in conjunction with local manufacturers to establish a trial initiative to develop better links and employment opportunities for young people. This was an initiative of Council's economic development team and youth services team, and received $8000 funding from the North East Industry Workforce Development Group (NEIWDG). A consultant from the Regional Development Company (RDC) undertook the work. Also involved were five manufacturing companies, NEIWDG, the North East Local Learning and Employment Network (NELLEN), and around 30 young people aged between 15 and 24 years. The involvement of younger people was because Wodonga has a higher percentage of 15 to 24 year-old residents than other Victorian regional centres. Manufacturers involved in the pilot project included Parker Hannifin, Mars Petcare, Visy Board, Border Mail Printing and Wilson Transformer Company. Read more »

The Gippsland Local Government Network (GLGN) is an alliance involving the six municipalities of Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland, Latrobe, South Gippsland and Wellington. They released the Gippsland Region Priority Area initiative that, after several years in the making, sought to encourage State and Federal Government investment to support development of specific 'shovel ready' projects to enhance the region's future. Beyond the capacity of any individual municipality to deliver, these projects included a $150 million upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District over the next five years, a $25.5 million development of the Gippsland Gateway at the Warragul Station Precinct, $10.57 million to develop Stage One of the Bancroft Bay Marina at Metung and $65 million for Stage 2A redevelopment of the Latrobe Regional Hospital. Read more »

Tasmania's Brighton Council, a relatively small semi-urban/rural council (population of around 17,000 residents over 7,000 rateable properties) continued to lead in terms of benefit from information and communications technology (ICT). The council established its own proprietary company (MicroWise Australia Pty Ltd) to manage, maintain and distribute software and services, it now develops and provides services across Australia and the Pacific. Its main product, PropertyWise, was developed in 1995 and manages core systems (property, regulator and cashiering). By working in an integrated environment with Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microwise is managing the business-critical activities of about 20 sites including councils across Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and Fiji. The Council, which also provides consultancy and employee services to other sites, is engaging the National Broadband Network (NBN) company to provide private cloud-based services to other local government bodies and authorities across Australia. By offering software as a service, this can alleviate high-cost licence fees and enable a variety of pricing models for smaller councils. Read more »

Chris Lewis is Visiting Fellow at ANZSOG Institute for Governance.

Matthew Cranston, 'Gold Coast gets raise-the-cranes boost', Australian Financial Review, 15 September 2012, 5.
Lucy Ardern, 'Games lotto plan', The Gold Coast Bulletin, 23 November 2012, 7.
3 'Advertiser Councils take economic initiative', The Advertiser, 25 May 2012, 22.

Image courtesy of City of Melbourne

Back to the Town Crier