Sandy Zubrinich
Sandy Zubrinich

OPINION: We need to share ideas to ensure area thrives

THE Sunshine Coast is often mooted as a region where it's difficult to do business.

This perception has been reflected in two consecutive Sunshine Coast Business Council (SCBC) surveys when seeking investor feedback.

I believe those perceptions are being reinforced within the investment community currently, with the strong community reaction to the proposed Sekisui and airport developments.

I am also of the belief that communities have a right to express their opinion as to what type of development they want.

With our population expected to grow to about 500,000 by 2033 (OESR 2011), change and growth is a constant and our challenge is to find ways to determine what development is good for our region.

As custodians of the region we need to deliver a living and working environment long-term that is acknowledged for its excellence in quality sustainable development that resonates with the values, culture, ecology and environmental diversity of this region, and critically, will stand the test of time for future generations.

It is also essential that when engaging a public debate around growth or the merits of a specific development proposal, we interrogate the facts while taking into account the views of special interest groups.

Otherwise, great opportunities that could have driven long-term economic, social and environmental prosperity will be lost, the exodus of our talented youth to our capital cities will continue and the Sunshine Coast that we all love will need to confront a much greater foe - that of escalating unemployment and economic stagnation.

The answer must lie in managing growth and development in a way that resonates with those living here and doesn't compromise too heavily on the beautiful environment that brought many of us here in the first place.

Those who simply jump on the anti-development/anti-growth bandwagon or worse still, are part of the silent majority on the issue need to consider that the construction industry is one of the top three industries on the Sunshine Coast in regard to total jobs, employing more than 17,000 residents.

The slowdown of this industry will therefore have an impact on most Sunshine Coast families, either directly or indirectly.

What is needed is a concerted effort to get together to discuss where development and the environment can coexist.

One which makes the Sunshine Coast unique.

This is already on track to be another tough year for the economy. Unemployment is on the rise nationally and will likely impact the Sunshine Coast.

We also have fluctuating business and consumer confidence which is impacting growth.

We need to be working to make the most of the investment opportunities we have on hand to drive jobs while respecting and working closely with the groups who work to protect our environmental assets.