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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 77

Mr SLIPPER (5:01 PM) —I rise today to salute the work being carried out by the Sunshine Coast Regional Organisation of Councils, generally known as SunROC. I have long been on the record as supporting the amalgamation of the City of Caloundra, the Shire of Noosa and the Shire of Maroochy so that the Sunshine Coast would be able to portray itself as a strong, united region and be best able to advertise the wonderful opportunities we have in our area. Also, if we were one local authority we would be able to deal with all levels of government in a very effective way. Having said that, at this point in time we do not have one council on the Sunshine Coast, so SunROC, although somewhat of a halfway house, is doing an excellent job in the interim.

SunROC is a voluntary regional organisation of councils for the Sunshine Coast, with the three local authorities I mentioned a moment ago as its members. SunROC places an emphasis on the development of infrastructure to underpin the growth of the Sunshine Coast region economically, socially and environmentally. SunROC has a specific role, function and purpose. It is the pre-eminent government liaison organisation for the regional interests of the City of Caloundra and the shires of Maroochy and Noosa. Through sensible and proactive lobbying and council cooperation, SunROC aims for the Sunshine Coast to have the best physical infrastructure of any region in Australia. Achieving that excellent level of physical infrastructure will in turn create the highest standards of economic, environmental and social infrastructure for the region and the best quality of life for citizens of the Sunshine Coast.

The chairmanship of SunROC is rotated between the three mayors. The current chairman is Councillor Don Aldous, Mayor of the City of Caloundra, and in May 2002 SunROC appointed its first executive director, Mr Graeme Pearce, to manage the organisation.

SunROC has recently released three groundbreaking studies which will outline key strategies to manage future growth throughout the Sunshine Coast region. The three commissioned studies include regional economic development, the knowledge economy and land transportation—SunTran. The Sunshine Coast Regional Economic Development Strategy is designed to provide a clear direction for the future by documenting coordinated action plans that promote and facilitate regional prosperity. The study identifies priorities to encourage investment and employment growth while ensuring that the region's unique attributes are protected and capitalised upon for all sections of the Sunshine Coast community, especially small and home based businesses and professional and other service providers, as well as all forms of entrepreneurial and export business activity. The aim is the very achievable creation of 30,000 sustainable jobs in the region over the next 25 years.

The knowledge economy strategy responds to a core element of the economic development strategy: knowledge industry employment growth. Future economic prosperity for Australia as a whole, and not least the Sunshine Coast, will rely on this important sector. Most local industries around Australia, but particularly the knowledge based industries, are increasingly advised to coordinate within regional clusters to maximise opportunities and outcomes. If these local industries are to transform themselves into regional industry clusters then the following issues need to be addressed and provided for: research support, skills development and supportive physical infrastructure. An important part of SunROC's studies has focussed on the practical aspects of SunROC providing support to the public sector in the areas of research and skills development and also focussing on potentially assisting the research of tertiary institutions.

Regional physical infrastructure is the focus of the third of SunROC's groundbreaking studies. The transportation, or SunTran, study is one of the first steps towards addressing regional transport issues on the Sunshine Coast. SunTran is the first major transport study for the region. Its completion will provide transport strategies that are absolutely vital to the future of the Sunshine Coast. Some of the key issues and findings that were identified in stage 1 of the SunTran study include that car travel is the dominant mode of transport on the Sunshine Coast—by 79 per cent; that the current share of scheduled public transport is only around one per cent of travel, which falls significantly below the overall public transport mode share target for south-east Queensland of 6.5 per cent of all trips by 2011; that a significant change in public transport investment strategy and policy measures by the Queensland state government would be required to achieve a material impact on the amount of private vehicle use; and that enhancing the cycle and pedestrian network would provide a platform towards decreasing the dominance of private motor vehicle use.

But the key issue identified that underpins all of the above is that, for the population of the Sunshine Coast region and its demographic, there is a low level of public transport provided by the Beattie state government. Stage 2 of SunROC's land transportation study will review the variety of transport options available to the region, and stage 3 will cover a raft of recommendations of which I sincerely hope the Queensland state government will closely take note. Both are expected to be completed by mid-2005.

I would also like to underline the fact that each of the three studies outlined above are part of the project known as Vision 2025—the Sunshine Coast Economic Development and Integrated Transport Strategy Project. The project has been supported by funding from the Australian government under our very successful Regional Partnerships program. The three studies also have the support of the three local councils of Caloundra City and the Maroochy and Noosa shires. I mentioned the chairman of SunROC, Don Aldous, who is also Mayor of Caloundra City Council; also involved are Councillor Bob Abbot, the mayor of Noosa, and Councillor Joe Natoli, the mayor of Maroochy.

The councils, together with SunROC, will work collaboratively with the Australian government on the outcomes of these studies. It is also expected and hoped that the Queensland state government, tertiary institutions and the private sector will become closely involved with the strategic project to further develop investment and growth in the Sunshine Coast and region without compromising the unequalled and enviable lifestyle that residents currently enjoy.

I therefore publicly call on the Queensland Beattie government to assist SunROC with the coordination and implementation of this strategy, in line with other recently completed strategic work in the regional area. It is essential that we get the strategic action plan for the future development of the Sunshine Coast region absolutely right and that it is efficiently implemented. With record numbers of new residents moving to Queensland's south-east region each month, it is crucial that at this time, at this stage, we envisage the physical, social and economic development of the region correctly and appropriately.

I understand that, to this end, it is proposed that an overseeing committee within SunROC be established that will take carriage of the overseeing of the following tasks: to agree on the top 10 most important regional strategies to be implemented over the next three years and to review the progress of these actions at each stage; to work with the Queensland Office of Urban Management on the implementation of the South East Queensland Regional Plan; to ensure that adequate resources are allocated from all levels of government to these projects; and, as is always necessary with such organisations with strategic plans, to coordinate advocacy for the region and to assist member organisations with the government and community liaison activities, primarily by building stronger partnerships with Queensland state and Australian government representatives to ensure the ongoing partnership among the three tiers of government. I therefore commend the excellent work that these three studies by SunROC represent and contribute towards the future prosperity and sustainability of the Sunshine Coast and region.

As I said before, with so much population and economic growth in the region and with so much interest in the Sunshine Coast from around Australia and around the world, the future that we imagine must be strategically developed and appropriately, intelligently and sensitively implemented. Any failure in judgment may have serious consequences in the decades to come and for future generations. All levels of government representing the Sunshine Coast have a responsibility to ensure the future sustainability of lifestyle and economic progress. I would like to commend the role carried out by Mr Tony Long, a Sunshine Coast businessman, with respect to what SunROC is currently achieving.

In conclusion, I am very pleased to say that the Australian government have taken our share of the responsibility seriously and have worked in partnership with SunROC and its member organisations. We will continue to do so. All the relevant government members—I am one of them—from each sphere must ensure that we continue to get on board with these strategies so that we may together achieve an even better future for the Sunshine Coast.