‘If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less’
WHEN political analyst Neil Glentworth addressed Gympie’s businesses last year, he pointed to the intersection of the Bruce Highway and Brisbane Rd as a $250 million missed opportunity.
The problem, he said, was the lack of any promotion of the city itself to people headed to Rainbow Beach and the coast.
One year later the message is the same.
“Nothing’s changed in a year, and it’s only going to get worse,” Mr Glentworth said.
“There’s no incentive to get off the highway and go into Gympie.”
This was the crux of Mr Glentworth’s argument as a guest speaker at yesterday’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
Mr Glentworth, who is chairman of problem-solving companhy GWI and who described his job as “calling out the blindingly obvious”, said the question the Gympie business community needed to to answer as work on the $1 billion bypass began was, “are you really ready?”
“Hope is not a strategy,” he said.
“You’re responsible for the changes that come.”
And they would with the COVID-19 pandemic leading some economic experts to question whether cities, which have long drawn residents away from rural areas, are now dead.
He said the truth was not so harsh, but still tough.
“Cities are not dead, but seriously challenged,” Mr Glentworth said.
The council also had a crucial role to play; there needed to be little doubt it was “open and transparent”.
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He pointed to the corruption-plagued Ipswich council as an example.
Following that debacle, Mr Glentworth said the council had moved to full transparency, including providing real time information about every single contract it was awarding.
“Why? Because no-one trusted that council,” he said.
“There’s no reason you can’t do that (real time transparency) here.
“Ipswich has gone from a corrupt and dodgy council to open.”
And while the Bruce Highway and Brisbane Rd intersection is controlled by the Federal and State Governments, he said any argument it had been left untouched because of Brisbane-centricism in governments was little more than an excuse.
“Yes it is a Federal and State issue but I guarantee if they were asked they would change (the signage).
“The thing is it’s leadership; it’s always a lack of leadership.
“At that junction safety comes first, but … renting one of those electronic display signs and letting each business put themselves on it; that’s not rocket science.
“It’s basic stuff.
“What annoys me is when you drive back from Rainbow Beach on a Sunday nowhere’s open.
“What is open? “Where do I go? There’s a disconnect between the value of that turn-off and the opportunity for this region.”
While that disconnect remained, the city was missing out on a big payday.
“What we can’t do is have a road junction where $250 million goes the wrong way,” Mr Glentworth said.
He said the region had assets and opportunities, like the planned Forest Wind wind farm in the Tuan Forest, and it needed to use them.
“I know the Rattler’s been a contentious issue but the money’s been spent,” Mr Glentworth said.
“You’ve got to use it.”
But tourism could not be the only answer given the beating it had taken over the past six months.
“(It) is a critical element but it can’t be the only element. When the economy is tough it’s the first thing to go.”
He urged the region’s leaders to push hard for upgrades to the region’s communication infrastructure like the NBN network. He said its absence was what stopped high end companies like Amazon and Google from moving into regional areas.
”The only thing holding you back is leadership,” he said.
“You’ve got to do something new.
“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”