Ratepayers to pay for business lobby group

A GRANT application from Noosa Chamber of Commerce has been approved by Noosa councillors – but only after a last-minute amendment to ensure transparency was inserted.

The application, for $30,000 from council’s Economic Development Grants funding triggered the requirement for it to be considered by the full council, and includes a range of targets (KPIs) and the employment of part-time assistance in endeavours including increasing the chamber’s membership.

Staff told Monday’s General Committee meeting the current membership of the chamber was 70, representing about 1% of the approximately 7000 ABN-registered businesses in Noosa Shire.

At that meeting, a motion from deputy mayor Frank Wilkie proposed that $7500 of the funding should be given to allow the chamber to develop a more comprehensive set of target requirements which were not as clear in the application as they might otherwise be.

Councillors decided to seek more information and re-visit the issue at Thursday’s Ordinary Meeting, where they voted against Cr Wilkie’s motion, after the chamber reported there would be no need for such an advance and it would provide the necessary further information.

Cr Tom Wegener expressed concern that more ratepayers’ money was being handed over to the business sector, acknowledging that Tourism Noosa and council’s economic development program already received $2.5 million and $900,000 respectively, and would not support the initial staff recommendation without a guarantee of further scrutiny.

Just prior to the vote, Cr Joe Jurisevic successfully put an amendment, following advice from council’s CEO, that would schedule a councillor workshop to view details of the KPIs the chamber would provide before any funds would be released.

Analysis by Alan Lander

There is no doubt that a vigorous, energetic chamber of commerce is a useful asset to any community, particularly following a difficult economic period such as the last two years Noosa has experienced along with the rest of the nation.

And there are numerous business organisations as well as regional chambers in our shire who do a sterling job in assisting their local business communities in every way that they can.

Noosa Chamber of Commerce is ideally placed to, and seeks to, operate as an umbrella organisation for all these groups yet, as mentioned in last Monday’s council meeting, its membership is a mere 70 businesses or 1% of the shire’s ABN-registered businesses (although a casual glance of its website might suggest more).

A second casual glance at that website, under the ‘news’ tab, might also suggest that the current chamber is chiefly concerned about the viability of a controversial program to regenerate the health of Noosa River through an oyster regeneration project – funded by council’s Environment Levy – than it is about the wellbeing of its members and their issues, given two of the three stories refer to the chamber’s opposition to that project.

Perhaps if the chamber distanced itself from local political issues, instead focusing on its charter to assist current members and represent the business community at large, it might send a message to former and future members that its primary function is in assisting them in this time of urgent need.


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