LEADING THE CHARGE

Written on the 15 August 2011

LEADING THE CHARGE

Former Gold Coast city councillor and deputy mayor David Power is the man that many in the business community regard as the one to take on the top civic job. Dismayed at what he perceives to be a lack of leadership by the current guard, Power takes aim at those making the big decisions.

GOLD Coast City Council took 12 months after the start of the GFC to take action to support our second largest industry (property construction), which is a disgrace.

The lack of inspirational leadership and trust has seen projects such as Bold Future become nothing more than a PR exercise. Council trumpeted that almost 12,000 residents provided feedback but little regarding the quality or focus of that feedback. Bold Future was to be a highly intellectual exercise in visioning, unfortunately it was hijacked.

The role of a local councillor is about being a star gazer however as we review decisions being made in this city we see a marked lack of recognition for cause and effect of those decisions.

Elected representatives play to a series of minorities thus producing the Holy Grail of a majority vote.

Examples abound of projects stalled or destroyed by this particular curse of democracy whether it is chairlifts in the Hinterland or new developments to meet the shortfall of affordable housing, the focus has shifted from visionary plan-making and control to reactionary decisions and short-term politics.

The most obvious case in point is the recent debate over Priority Infrastructure Plan charges which was stonewalled for more than six years by the constant misleading catch cry ‘the ratepayers will pay’.
Unfortunately what is ignored by adherents to the current system is that the people buying the properties with these inflated charges will be ratepayers and they are subsidising the existing population. Any councillor wishing to debate this, simply name the time and place and I will be there with 16 years of budget documents.

Those who originally tried to warn of the outcomes that have now crippled this city were howled down as ‘developer’s mates’, ‘not acting in the community interest’ and even labelled as corrupt.

There is a marked display of ignorance by some elected representatives as to how the economy works. During the Priority Infrastructure Plan charges debate in council a number of years ago, the current chair of the sustainable growth committee stated that ‘developers are making plenty of money, they just need to take less profit’.

This culture is rife within council and anyone lodging an application for an extra kitchen or bathroom to desperately needed affordable housing is seen alternatively as a cash cow or the enemy intent on pillaging.

Council recently tried charging a developer for a community facility that the developer built and fitted out on land that the developer donated to council. After more than 12 months of arguing the charge was finally dropped.

Looking back on the statements and actions of some councillors who now try to claim credit for championing the cause of PIP charges adjustments, tourism support and control of the bureaucracy, we will see it is their actions that have placed us in this dire position - yet they don’t think this will revisit them in future elections when more than 9000 people have lost their jobs in the building industry over recent months.

Some councillors must accept responsibility for the situation that now exists, however this requires self awareness which is one of the keys to leadership.

The tourism industry has despaired for years at the lack of new product coming into the market. The return on building apartments in our key tourist centres is a far more attractive risk than a new hotel. Absolutely no work has been done on potential planning scheme modifications that can encourage new product to revitalise the tourism industry.

Mediocrity is now the norm and leadership by the people’s representatives is now nothing more than a rubber stamp exercise on the floor of council.

We have seen the results in recent years of inexperience in council leadership positions and base, self-interested politics can do to a city that was leading the way only four or five years ago. The result is that more and more power passes from the people to bureaucrats ensuring we become mired deeper in process and ideology rather than outcomes.

The solution will be in our hands but will the business community run for cover as it has in the past, or will it form a united front to encourage change and true leadership?


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