Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce
Monday 21 September 2020

The local economy is continuing to recover strongly from the COVID19 restrictions with high construction activity fuelled by strong property sales.  Hospitality and tourism is also benefitting from good levels of domestic tourist visitation.  Recent economic data suggest that at least the NSW economy has fared better than expected with unemployment falling as restrictions are eased and NSW and the regions get back to work.

The Morrison Government has continued to provide the necessary but modified Job Keeper and Job Seeker support whilst announcing higher levels of investment in infrastructure spending.  It has been announced that nearby NSW Water dam projects at Wyangallah and Glengowan near Tamworth will now be co-funded by the Federal Government.   Meanwhile just to our North the $1-2bn Coffs Harbour By-Pass is about to get underway bringing about 12,000 jobs to the Mid- North Coast area.

The recent announcement that the Federal Government will back gas as the transitional energy source is also welcome news to pragmatists who understand that industry must have affordable and reliable baseload power for a resurgent manufacturing sector particularly in regional areas.  This is a critical component to encouraging new investment and making local manufacturing competitive with cheap overseas imports.

In addition, it has been foreshadowed that the Government may also extend the housing stimulus package which would be good news for regional growth areas such as ours.  As the metropolitan exodus gathers pace cash incentives for first home buyers and stamp duty relief will ensure a solid housing sector providing employment until the recovery is more complete.

The NSW state government has managed the pandemic well but now needs to make progress in critical areas such as the reduction of red and green tape along with developing policies that suit regional areas.  Prime examples of bureaucratic overreach are the controversial Koala SEPP and its recent predecessor the Coastal Wetland SEPP.  Both are severely flawed with gross errors in mapping, habitat definitions and environmental guidelines.  Whilst well meaning these policies do nothing for the Koalas or the environment in their current form and do significant harm in costs and delay to regional industries and farmers.

A further problem to be addressed is the ongoing centralised and city centric control over land use approvals by the Department of Planning.  Many small regional developments would benefit in time and cost reductions from more input and oversight by Regional Offices or Councils rather than State Government Town Planners based in Parramatta.  Unfortunately, these city based planners have no understanding of regional issues or site conditions but are applying generic rules designed for the metropolitan areas.

Locally the council has endorsed an ambitious capital works program of approximately $85m in planned expenditure for FY20/21.  This includes a range of very necessary infrastructure projects that will underpin our local economic recovery for decades to come.  In addition, council has resolved to proceed with construction planning for the much anticipated $90m Ocean Drive upgrade.  A key issue yet to be resolved by all levels of government being a possible project funding  shortfall of up to $30m following revised budget estimates from TfNSW.

As part of the COVID19 recovery process Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce has embarked on a “Get Reconnected” campaign to encourage all businesses to re-establish contacts and networking.  The first face to face boardroom luncheon is planned for 9th October 2020 where high profile finance commentator Craig James will be the keynote speaker.  As restrictions ease further networking events will be held go to www.portchamber.com.au to see planned events to help bring the business community together after what has been a very challenging period.

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