Noosa Dreaming-Pt.2: will we all wake up too late?

There is no doubt that Noosa is an iconic location where many still aspire to live, thanks to those who fought doggedly for what we have.  It’s still a special place.

Many residents will remember the development booms and busts and associated population explosions and contractions prior to the 1990s. High unemployment was normal as new residents arrived in the good times hoping to find a job so they could enjoy the lifestyle.

Nothing like those economic crashes has affected the local economy as badly since, not even Covid. That’s largely because of the ongoing growth of a number of industry segments like healthcare and professional services.

ABS data tells us that the local economy has become much more resilient and diversified. Health Care and Social Assistance is now the largest value-added industry in Noosa ahead of Construction, with Professional, Scientific & Technical Services equal third with Retail Trade. 

Unemployment rates are no longer the problem they once were, with a low 2.8% in the last September quarter compared to SEQ at 4%. 

Why then is Tourism Noosa still collecting $2.6 million from general rates every year to aim for an ever increasing number of visitors? 

Decades ago, the community was willing to support the local economy by encouraging visitors in the down times. But along the way the Noosa aim of quality over quantity has been submerged beneath a tide of ever increasing promotional spending. 

What about other values that Noosa residents have fought and worked for, and long considered to be important to their lifestyle?

One of the most obvious is congestion, in public places as well as on the water and the roads. Until relatively recently it was mostly a problem during some peak periods, like Easter and the Christmas holidays. That’s why Council introduced the free bus service during peak periods over 20 years ago. But that didn’t help the public places or roads, and congestion has continued to increase.

Council encouraged the addition of events 30 years ago, but a condition of support was a requirement that they add value to residents generally. Home grown events established and run by volunteers at the time were enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. The Noosa Tri was a local event started by and for local enthusiasts. Similarly the Jazz Festival and Noosa Long Weekend later. They added cultural opportunities for locals that would not have been financially possible without participation by visitors.

Over the years the interests of residents have been increasingly ignored, with approval of events affecting but not adding to the lives of most residents. Some of them are run by external businesses for profit, using Noosa infrastructure and often our public spaces.

Sadly, it could get worse. The recent shuffle of deck chairs – aka restructuring – at Pelican Street, saw Major Events and Destination Management moved to the Economic Development section in Council.  The purpose is made clear by this extract from the report to Council:

Economic Development will receive additional responsibilities for Destination
Management and the interface with major events,
increasing assistance and service
levels to the major event sector
in the Local Government Area.”

Are we about to see a change of attitude to the type of requests to use public places and infrastructure that have been rejected over the years?  Examples of past applications include new product launches for national and multinational companies, as well as events that take over parts of beaches, river, parks and roads, sometimes for days to the exclusion of residents. 

The majority of applications have been refused in the past because they either deliver little or no economic or cultural benefit to Noosa, are a bad fit with Noosa values, or add significantly to congestion.

Add this to the insanity of Tourism Noosa continuing to target ever increasing tourist numbers and we can forget about congestion improving. 

Relax, folks. Obviously nothing to see here. The Council restructuring report refers to;

The recommended structure before the Council will deliver the outcomes the Council and the
community are seeking.

Really? Does someone in Pelican Street really believe the community is seeking ‘increasing service levels to the major events sector’? Seems more like putting the financial interests of a few ahead of residents.

The final word is an anecdote contributed by a long-standing resident last week who had just spoken to a current Council staff member. 

I was out walking early in the week and ran into a current employee and they said it is a constant battle trying to maintain a ‘Noosa style’ approach as most of the staff don’t even live here anymore (cannot afford to) and don’t share our passion for Noosa.  Those trying to defend the line are considered to be obstructionist to doing business.

“Now the organisation restructure has moved the events function to Economic Development there will be little regard for residents or the Noosa values.”

Get ready for more congestion and a continuing decline in liveability for residents.

Does a coherent plan for the future of Noosa actually exist anymore? Or is there such chaos and lack of leadership in Pelican Street that knee-jerk, political reactions have become entrenched instead? 

Watch for Part 3 as the next edition of Noosa Matters continues to look at the current state of play. If you haven’t already, why not go to the top of our home page and subscribe to get our email about the new stories of each edition. 


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Couldn’t agree more Noel, except I wish you (& everyone) would stop referring to the “free” bus service. It’s actually a “Ratepayer Funded” bus service.

    1. Noel Playford

      Couldn’t agree more with you Muz. Council has been levying us almost $1 million each year for “innovative’ traffic solutions that were promised in a 10 year Strategy in 2017. After 6 years and about $5 million collected, the best they could come up with was to extend the ‘free’ bus service that had been established 20 years ago from a few weeks a year to all school holidays and then all weekends.
      That of course takes only a small part of the ratepayer levy. Don’t get me going on what the rest is spent on, but it’s certainly not ‘innovative’. A rip-off would be a better description.

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