Mayor’s Message

WORDS: Mayor Tom Tate PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

In 2012, our city was in deep financial strife.

2012 was four years after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis,yet the Gold Coast was still struggling with high unemployment, house prices were stagnant, and the economic outlook was dire across all industry sectors.

In 2012, we were victims of the two-speed economy which had been the backbone of the coast for the past 60 years.

2012 was my first term as Mayor and given part of the mayoral role involves chairing the annual City Budget process, the opportunity to drive change was there.

Before being elected, I had personally witnessed the double-digit annual rate increases being imposed on business owners, homeowners and investors. My own rates bills, on commercial and private properties, were skyrocketing.

At the same time, Council’s debt was around $860 million, heading for $1 billion in 2014.

Once elected, what I discovered was a council allowing its debt to blow out; hitting ratepayers in the hip pocket; and with no real forward plan for major economic opportunities including the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games.

My first task was to seek a council resolution to end the era of double-digit rate increases.

In my view, the new-world order was that no future general rate increase (principal-place-of-residence) could exceed CPI (Consumer Price Index). Council agreed and the pressure on homeowners and small business finally began to subside. Eleven years later, there has not been a single annual rate increase exceeding inflation.

Task two was a directive, from me as Chair of City Budget, that the city would reduce its debt while ensuring an improvement in frontline services. This compelled the administration to find savings from their operational budget, year-after-year, so the debt albatross on ratepayers could reduce in real terms. I’m delighted to advise that in 2023, our city debt is around $595 million – more than 30 percent less than where it was heading.

These stats tell a story of growth, diversification and opportunity:

In 2011-12, our Gross Regional Product was around $30 billion annually. Today it is $41 billion and growing:

• In 2011-12, our population was around 528,300. Today, it is around 647,000;

• Tourism and construction combined today is worth $6.45 billion;

• Today, our biggest employer and economic driver is the health and medical industry worth $3.86 billion to our economy, compared to $2 billion in 2011-12;

• The film industry was virtually non-existent in 2011-12. Today, it is worth around $513 million to our economy;

• Sport is worth around $600 million annually to the city; and

• Student education is on the rise – up from around $1.66 billion in 2011-12 to around $2.16 billion today.

Boasting a broader, more diverse economy has created a flow-on effect for families, new arrivals, retirees and small business.

Importantly, the social unity benefits of keeping families together have meant young Gold Coasters leaving school no longer have to fly to Melbourne, Sydney or London for a fantastic career.

As Mayor, I fully accept we have challenges ahead in areas such as cost-of-living, first-home affordability, transport logistics, protecting our green and open space and assisting people with mobility issues. Council has policies in place to address these challenges, where we can.

In many cases, the heavy lifting must be done by the State and Federal governments in areas such as main road infrastructure (eg: the M1 including on and off-ramps), improved public bus services, social housing, homelessness and protecting more green and open space.

Let’s roll up our sleeves for the next decade ahead.

The city’s latest economic outlook is at: