Friday, September 21, 2012

Cairns Chamber Letter

There has been some controversy this week around criticism of the new Cairns Regional Council by Anthony Miritsos of the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, as reported in the Cairns Post, and the response from Bob Manning. There would clearly appear to be some tension and politicking happening between Council and the Qld Guvmint. This is the full letter to Chamber members from Mirotsos circulated yesterday:


20 September 2012

Dear Members and Valued Business Colleagues,

I’m sure you will have noticed the commentary surrounding last week’s Cairns Chamber State Budget response, particularly as it relates to our Regional Council.

As your President, I back away from none of it. My role is really very simple – to translate the thoughts and feelings of the Cairns Chamber membership to external audiences. And the overwhelming feeling of our membership at the moment, in relation to the Cairns Regional Council, is one of frustration. The current CRC leadership went to the local elections knowing that there had been a change of government. They went to the election promising to hit the ground running. They talked of a seamless transaction from state to local administration in relation to getting work happening. They did not go to the electorate, let alone the business community, saying ‘give us whatever amount of time’ before we can start creating action outcomes for you.

Let there be no doubt that we believe the new state government is far better positioned than the previous administration to ‘get the economy back on track’. But the simple fact is that while the Newman administration set clear 100 day targets, published and articulated them widely, then hit the vast majority of them, our CRC leadership appears to our members to have listed and achieved very little in the same space of time.

To be fair, the local budget has spared our rate payers an average 8% rate increase, and under Mayor Manning rates are up only 3.7%. We applaud this move, as it’s clear, decisive and positive for business and the wider community. Ten out of Ten.

Cairns Chamber members want the Mayor to make clear pro-business decisions and shout them from the rooftops. But that’s clearly not happening. Members want him to engage more with the business community and to work with us to set and achieve new goals. For example; at the Cairns Chamber lunch this week, Mayor Manning who was in attendance could have stood up and said anything he wanted about his current position – but instead, many members commented on his lack of response, his-folded arm lack of engagement and his apparent despondency. This doesn’t send a positive message to our members.

The State Government started their budget too with the cupboard bare but they were still able to announce some positive initiatives and show us how and why the tough decisions were made. The messages were clearly communicated to us and they were able to articulate where they were being proactive, with limited dollars. The message we are receiving from our local government is much more reactive. We’re not blaming the local government for the lack of dollars – we know times are tough – but what we want them to do is to tell us what they plan to do about it and to take a leadership position and articulate a vision to the business community.

To make our position crystal clear:

•     We support the state budget, and totally agree with the pathway and foundation that it
      provides. Thank goodness we now have a vision from our state government.
•     We believe that the physical dollars in the state budget are not enough to help us dig
      ourselves out of the hole our local economy is in. We never withdrew our support, nor
      did we recant our position.
•     However, the reality is that the first two points remain meaningless without a local
      council that is prepared to lobby hard for us, make some decisions they’ve already
      promised they’d make, and actually convert some of their thinking into doing. It’s vital
      that they be proactive rather than reactive and show some action. We are looking for
      jobs not more reports and studies.

I simply don’t believe, and neither do members, that council can’t actually do anything until they have funding and other commitments come down the pipeline from Brisbane. That’s exactly the story the last council ran, and precisely the story the current administration campaigned against.

I have respect for both the CRC leadership and the Mayor. But it would be remiss of me as your President if I didn’t stand up for what you believe to be the frustrations that many in our business community are having with our local authority in relation to local issues.

The Cairns Chamber has already tried to engage with the Mayor, inviting him as soon as he was elected to meet with the Cairns Chamber Management Committee and begin building a solid working relationship. It took nearly 4 months for him to say yes. We know he is busy, but you’d think he’d be interested in at least engaging with the Cairns Chamber Management Committee. When he did meet with us, we were disappointed with his low level of engagement and frustrated by his lack of vision and limited clarity on what he is doing.

The bottom line is this - We want:

•     More communication from the Mayor’s office directly to the business community.
•     The opportunity to meet regularly with the Mayor and discuss business’ priorities.
•     A Cairns region vision that is very clear and that has an associated action plan for how
      things will be progressed and achieved.
•     Clear, ongoing information to the business community about what decisions are being
      made, and what initiatives are being implemented, how and when.
•     Whatever is being done - we want it shouted from the roof tops so businesses know
      what is actually happening and can plan and manage their operations accordingly.

To play our part, we are prepared to work with CRC in the following ways:

•     We will host a function, at our cost, and give the Mayor an opportunity to present his
      plan of action and to articulate his vision to the business community.
•     The Executive Subcommittee of the Cairns Chamber’s Management Committee is
      prepared to meet with the Mayor monthly, or more regularly if required, to build an open
      line of communication.
•     We will communicate the Mayor’s messages to our database of 4000+ business
      contacts as he articulates his vision, his decisions and his council’s progress.

Yes it has been tough and the Mayor has been dealt a difficult hand, but let’s get some runs on the board. Great leaders, even in tough times, take a strong position and show vision, action and leadership.

In closing, let me thank each and every one of you for your conversations and other communication.

We have been inundated with positive support from members, and where the feedback is negative, we are listening and will reply to these messages as well. It is only by you raising your concerns directly that your Cairns Chamber Management Committee and I as your President, can make sure your voice is heard.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Mirotsos

Cairns Chamber of Commerce

And on behalf of the entire Cairns Chamber Management Committee.

1 comment:

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