Think Tank identifies economic issues in the Douglas Shire


Victoria Stone-Meadows


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Dr Alexandra Bernhardi was the organiser of the Think Tank event. Image: Supplied.

Economic diversification and positive collaborations were the focus of a think tank meeting held in Mossman over the weekend.

About 30 residents of the Douglas Shire shared ideas on how to improve and strengthen the region’s economy at the meeting.

Event organiser, Doctor Alexandra Bernhardi, said the meeting brought together people from different groups who shared a common goal.

“We had a very diverse group of people; people who normally would not share the same meeting as they mostly belong to different groups,” she said.

“It was all very professional and friendly and engaged, everyone really discovered we do share similar goals, even if we come from different groups.

“We all want to see the Douglas Shire embracing and moving toward true sustainability.”

Dr Bernhardi said speakers at the meeting pointed several social and economic areas where they believe improvements could be made.

“I started the meeting pointing out my personal motivations as a concerned health professional and explained how our immediate environment and food choices are impacting and contributing to chronic health conditions,” she said.

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“We have a lot of disease in the Douglas Shire despite the fact we live in a beautiful environment.

“We also realise it is difficult to really get to the bottom of things and find the true effects, even if you present facts and influences to the shire if the facts are inconvenient people don’t want to touch on things.” 

Other ideas presented to the crowd centred on alleviating the economic reliance on tourism by supporting other industry in the region.

“Can Kara spoke about the benefits of economic diversity and pointed out that in this day and age with lots of global risk factors we cannot influence – global politics and climate change and conflicts – it is risky to only rely on tourism as the main income,” Dr Bernhardi said.

“It was emphasised we need to strengthen other economic areas, especially agriculture, as a field that should be strengthened a lot more.”

“He was suggesting we should be able to lift the standard of quality in all economic areas up to a very high level and then try to market the combination of these different economic areas as one brand so people realise when they hear Douglas Shire it is not only nice beach but high-quality food, products, and services.”

Tourism advocate Gerry Ireland also presented at the meeting with a focus on the Douglas Shire’s economic performance over the last 18 years.

According to Mr Ireland, the Douglas Shire’s economic growth is out of step with the rest of the state.

“It’s a sad indictment that there has been such a lack of leadership in the Douglas Shire, that no-one is really aware of this fact,” he said.

“Regional Queensland Economies grew almost eight times faster than that of the Douglas Shire since 2001.”

Mr Ireland noted his perceived problems with the region’s economy include an outdated Tourism Strategy Plan, a lack of a budget for future tourism growth, and what he believes to be a lack of leadership in the tourism industry in the Douglas Shire.

“There is an obvious need for Transformational Change based around a new Douglas Shire Tourism Leadership Organisation and Team, driven by relevant Tourism Growth KPI responsibilities, and with transparent accountability,” he said.

A subsequent meeting is planned for 7 September to further discuss economic and environmental issues in the region.

“The way we would try to find a solution to the problems we have identified - whatever that will be – will be left over the audience and what they will come up with and we should follow that,” Dr Bernhardi said.

Dr Bernhardi said she hopes with the collaboration of the people at the meeting working together with Council, Businesses, and Industry, a comprehensive plan for the future of the shire can be produced.

“I’m very optimistic we will be able to achieve constructive outcomes from that and what hat that will be is not up to me to make that call,” she said.

“The meeting was a real think tank and everybody was and is thinking whatever the solutions might be. The energy in that room was such that it definitely can be a platform that can lead to results.”

The Think Tank meetings are open for all to attend with the next one taking place on Saturday, 7 September at the Mossman CWA Hall from 1.00pm to 3.00pm.

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