A paper setting out a bid to attract a government agency to the region will be launched at a public seminar at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast on Friday March 16.
The paper was written by the Research Director of the Economic Development and Enterprise Collaboration (EDEC), Associate Professor Paul Collits, from USQ Fraser Coast.
Associate Professor Collits said he was asked by the Maryborough Chamber of Commerce (an EDEC partner) to investigate the possibility of attracting a government agency to the area.
‘The paper sets out key issues for a possible campaign, such as encouraging debate in the community and suggesting how to go about making a case,’ Associate Professor Collits said.
‘Currently there are more than 11,000 public servants in the Wide Bay Burnett Region.
‘As one would expect, there is a huge concentration of public servants in the south east.
‘Attracting a government agency is not, and cannot be the sole strategy for the region and is not a panacea for economic development.
‘But it is a worthwhile exercise and we should try to get it on the political agenda.’
The launch of the paper: A Government Agency for the Fraser Coast? A Discussion of Key Issues and Questions comes just a week before the State election and Assoc Prof Collits hopes it will raise discussion during the campaigning process.
He said the establishment of a government agency would provide benefits including direct jobs, indirect jobs, opportunities for business for local suppliers, and an increase in professionals and skills for the region.
‘The current Government’s focus, despite its regionalisation strategy, is only to decentralise jobs out of the Brisbane CBD to the suburbs,’ he said.
‘Regional areas offer considerable potential gains for agencies, including lifestyle for its employees.
‘But a lifestyle-based pitch is never enough. The business case is everything.
‘We have to show them what is in it for them. This includes savings to the agency, opportunities for organisational improvement and being closer to clients of the agency.
‘So which agencies might we attract?
‘Interstate and overseas experience suggests a wide range of possibilities such as call centre functions, areas of government that do not need to be in the capital such as agencies with a regional focus like agriculture.
‘Successful case studies in other jurisdictions include the Transport Accident Commission (Geelong) and the NSW Department of Agriculture (Orange).
‘Under a Labor government, New South Wales moved many agencies to regional areas, and this was politically popular.
‘Sometimes public servants and heads of agencies will resist any attempts at relocation out of the city, and these relocations can be complicated to implement and are never easy.
‘There is always loss of corporate memory to the agency in the event of a big move.’
Associate Professor Collits said the region needed to develop counter arguments to overcome the institutional negatives which could arise.
He said there were lessons to be learned from experience elsewhere about how to make the case and how to do it properly.
‘Other regions will also be making the pitch,’ he said.
‘The key is to make governments realise they need to put their money where their mouths are as far as decentralisation is concerned.
‘If they mean it, let them lead by example and decentralise some of their own operations, and in a meaningful way.’
The paper will be launched during a seminar on Regional Development, featuring guest speaker Professor Tony Sorensen, from the University of New England. For further information or bookings contact USQ Fraser Coast on 41943133 or email Stephanie.Bayley@usq.edu.au.
Tell a friend!
Katrina Corcoran, USQ Media, +61 7 41 94 3167