Council candidates’ message to the business community

Ahead of the Colac Otway Shire Council election this month, the Colac and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry contacted all 14 council candidates on behalf of the businesses we represent.

We asked each candidate for their message to Colac and district businesses and industry, and to share their plan to lead our Shire through the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Candidates were also asked for their strategies to build a stronger and more resilient local economy, and they were encouraged to be as specific as they can with their ideas.

Here are the candidates’ responses, listed in alphabetical order. We encourage you to click on the link at the end of each section to read their full statements.

Max Arnott

My vision to maximise opportunities for Colac Otway Shire;

  • Opportunity tends to hide in adversity
  • Council meetings to be more professional, focused, setting a positive strategy.
  • Reduce red tape (get out of the way, be an enabler)
  • Promote Business activity, get projects moving.
  • Business opportunities in the environment.
  • Decentralisation opportunities.
  • Lake Colac a generational project.
  • Roads are the Shire’s arteries.
  • The business of Council.

Recovery of the Shire’s business from the Covid 19 lookdown is one of the biggest challenges to face local business, since the last recession. Yes, I am old enough to remember Terry Mulder commenting how many qualified businesspeople were applying to work at his cleaning service. Plus shop windows dressed up by the service clubs to cover over the barren feel.

Read Max Arnott’s full response here.

Jamie Bell

I am focused as a priority to ensure the council has a clear economic recovery plan in place in which we can use to, not only recover from, but to thrive in what is likely to be a changed post covid-19 economic climate.

Given the health crisis’ impact on local, national and global business I think we can all agree that our consumer patterns and behaviours will forever be affected. In other words there is likely to be a permanent shift in the way we conduct business and the way our customers and consumers behave as a result. We have already seen a change in societal expectations in how we work (more flexibly- from home), which raises many questions about how this will affect small business in Colac and beyond in a depressed economic climate underpinned by growing unemployment, potential of retracting consumer and business confidence, growing state and federal debt and uncertain domestic and global equity markets. All of which have the ability to negatively affect our shire.

Read Jamie Bell’s full response here.

Maxwell N Clark

What I propose to do if elected, is to work side by side with your organisation as well as with our businesses, no matter what they do, from a small SOHO and up.  I will be looking into reducing the council red and green tape which I know is stifling business and growth.  I will search out grants from council, State and Federal Governments as well as private investors etc. for our businesses and inform both you and the businesses to which grants are suitable for their line of operation as I have personally done this before for my own business etc.

I know how hard our businesses have been hit by both COVID and the restrictions placed on them by the State Government and the elected councillors and the council must stand up and be ready to assist all of our businesses.  Now I know it will be hard for some of the candidates to actually hold their promise to support our businesses as their priorities lay elsewhere but I am strongly focused on this task at hand.

Read Maxwell N Clark’s full response here.

Graham Costin

The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on gatherings, travel and tourism has presented many challenges not only to communities, commerce and industry, but also to the complex $32 million p.a. business of Colac Otway Shire. Council is navigating through uncharted waters but has a key role in providing the extra support that everyone needs to get through the pandemic’s economic and social impacts until we arrive at a “new normal”.

“The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.”

This draft COVID-19 Support and Recovery Roadmap is based on my still evolving understandings. The actions proposed are in addition to those included in the recently updated 2017-2021 Council Plan. It may contain errors or omissions as it has been prepared without the benefit of Council staff support or broad stakeholder consultation.

Read Graham Costin’s full response here.

Catriona Ebeling

Thank you for the opportunity as Candidate to share my plan to help lead our Shire through the impact of the pandemic, and to offer strategies to build a stronger and more resilient local economy. Previous Councils have demonstrated strategic vision and leadership during difficult times. One example of this was the part purchase of the local abattoirs so this industry could remain in Colac to become a major employer with global export product and ‘state of the art’ training facilities.

But getting Colac Otway ‘back on track’ in this post-COVID recovery must involve not only strategic vision but ‘shovel-ready’ sustainable jobs focus with a Council/Government, Business and Community engagement.

Read Catriona Ebeling’s full response here.

Tosh-Jake Finnigan

Businesses across the Colac Otway Shire are in the midst of an unprecedented downturn through no fault of their own, and the next council will need to put aside any personal or political differences so we can chart a way back from this recession.

If elected to the Colac Otway Shire Council, I pledge to work with each and every councillor, regardless of their political position or personal opinion of me in order to get the best results for our shire coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being the owner of a new small business in Colac, I have my own ideas around relaxing restrictions on signage and cutting red-tape that obstructs businesses from operating at their best and from growing. I also believe that the incoming council will need to look heavily at rate relief for businesses as there just isn’t going to be enough money to go around, and a rate rise at this time could be the final nail in the coffin for some.

Read Tosh-Jake Finnigan’s full response here.

Kate Hanson

The new council needs to be 100% community focused. It needs to set the strategic direction for the next four years by listening to the community and its diverse views, making decisions and then supporting the Shire organisation to implement that vision. A diverse but stable council will be needed to ensure that Shire staff can be completely focused on delivering for the community.

The Shire must continue to support our local businesses through helping them adapt to ever changing Covid guidelines. For example, permits for outdoor dining must be fast tracked. Encouraging visitors to our region will be vital through a comprehensive marketing campaign. We must support our tourism industry to be strong again. The Shire will need to continue to engage with business to ensure that it does not focus on one industry over another. There will be businesses hurting that fall outside hospitality, tourism and retail that need support.

Stephen Hart

Thanks for the opportunity to address your members. My ideas to help Colac Otway businesses recover from the covid 19 pandemic and to build a stronger, more resilient local economy include:

1. Extend the rates interest rate waiver to at least 30 June 2021. This will provide ‘breathing space’.

2. Council needs to actively listen to business owners and the respective Chambers of Commerce – Colac and Apollo Bay – to develop strategies that will meet their immediate needs. Marketing the region, both as a destination to visit and as a place to live and work, is part of the solution.

Read Stephen Hart’s full response here.

Susan Langridge

Thanks for the opportunity to share my plan to build a stronger, more resilient local economy following the impact of Covid 19. My responses are both short-term and long-term perspectives. I also recognise that the best ideas are probably going to come from the business community.

I think the most important element is the local community. We need to involve them in recognising that their patronage of local business and manufacturing is key. We also need to ensure the council is on board doing whatever it can, to be helpful to encourage innovation and collaboration between council and business.

Read Susan Langridge’s full response here.

Carol Lofts

Thank you for this opportunity to share my strategies to build a stronger & more resilient local economy post COVID. There are many strategies used to give towns short-term economic stimulus. For example, buy local or weekend festivals. I support all of these but I would like to address more sustainable proposals.

The experience of many small towns suggests the most effective way to prosperity is growth. Stagnation leads to death. So, let’s consider ways to grow Colac. The things that attract people to a town are affordable land, good jobs, interesting community and ambience (or if you prefer environment). Council can have some effect on these things.

Read Carol Lofts’ full response here.

Mark McCallum

I believe direction should be ‘bottom up’ rather than ‘top down’.  My plan is simply to be more of an enabler than a director. Should I get into council I will be meeting with the business leaders and their associations and responding to what they consider are the issues that need addressing . With such a diverse range of business sectors in this Shire, attempting to form an all encompassing vision is likely to appear tokenistic.

I consider my skill set to be in; Enquiry, Consultation, Research, Assessment, Collaboration and Consensus leading to action. These are the skills that I would use to work with Business and Industry on the issues they consider to be important for continued development. They are most certainly better placed than me to be making such assessments.

I think Council’s immediate job upon taking office will be to act quickly in providing a broad range of assistance to businesses to get through this rapidly approaching peak season in reasonable condition. I have already had discussion with the ABCC about some actions that the council could take immediately to assist with their sidewalk congestion problems. Although important to all businesses, as they deal with density and travel restrictions, it is going to be critical on the coast where seasonality is extreme. 

Joe McCracken

Here are some of the strategies I think are important to ensure we rebuild our local economy and ensure we support job growth:

– Keep rates low. This encourages new businesses to set up whilst not being too much of an impost on existing businesses.

– Ensure that the shire is easy to do business with. NO to reams of paperwork. NO to long-winded surveys. YES to keeping things simple, clear, easy to understand and accessible. Business owners are time poor as it is. Let’s not add to it.

Read Joe McCracken’s full response here.

Chris Potter

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the nature and variance of large and small business across the shire. It has demonstrated the underlying strength and resilience of our largest manufacturers whilst showing the fragility of our tourism, hospitality and commercial fishing industry. I think there are a number of strategies that can help and which the Colac Otway Shire can play a major role in.

1 – Big business is struggling to find employees, especially with immigration reduced, whilst people are wanting to leave Melbourne in droves. The shire needs to urgently facilitate the opening up of residential developments, large and small, to provide housing availability for people to move here.

Read Chris Potter’s full response here.

Marg White

My key message to business and industry would be that the region and community has got a lot to offer and a lot of potential and has demonstrated in recent times the ability to take up a challenge.

We have the strong foundations that we can harness going forward in the post covid recovery period. One critical element is partnership and collaborative effort. In the last 12 months alone there have been major successes that we can draw on for inspiration, the Bush Fire appeal on the lake foreshore, the “Let’s get back to None” campaign and most recently the 10 at 10 campaign, all excellent examples that with passion and commitment Colac and the region can achieve and work together. 

Read Marg White’s full response here.