I joined the Regional Development Australia Central Coast (RDACC) Board in January this year, when noone could predict the events that would unfold throughout 2021.
Thinking we had left the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us in 2020, there was a spirit of optimism for the Central Coast to move forward as a stronger, more resilient and better united region.
We had some big wins early in the year.
In March, RDACC hosted an unprecedented roundtable event with the Central Coast’s key decision-makers across local, state and federal government and business agencies.
This event was the first time in local collective memory that critical stakeholders from all levels of government and both sides of the political landscape have been in a room together to collaborate on a cohesive agenda of priorities for the Central Coast.
We continue to facilitate these discussions and are proud to have led this level of collaboration for the Coast.
We also celebrated the opening of the first ever Australian Food & Agribusiness Doctoral Training Centre – a long-time goal of the Central Coast Food Innovation Initiative – here at Newcastle University’s Ourimbah Campus.
We welcomed the appointment of a new CEO for Central Coast Council and look forward to working together with council in this new era of cooperation and collaboration.
Closer to home, we welcomed the appointment of RDACC’s Director of Regional Projects, Funding & Research, Ms Christine Jarvis. This newly created role is designed to support sustainable economic growth and expand local employment opportunities, as well as providing an additional connection between available funding and our community.
With Stay at Home Orders enforced for Greater Sydney and the Central Coast from 26 June – 11 October in response to COVID-19, we did what we could to support our local business community through this very difficult period.
This included managing enquiries from local business owners regarding the supports available and continuing to connect local industry with funding sources, as well as endorsing the extensive efforts of our elected members to classify the Central Coast as a stand-alone region.
We also continued to highlight the innovation and ingenuity shown by local businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, in adapting to the ever-changing conditions and facing the challenges they are presented with head-on.
During this time, we welcomed a new-look RDACC Board.
With an even balance of old and new (6 existing members, 6 new members), we have the perfect mix of expertise and fresh ideas. I welcome David Bacon to the role of Deputy Chair and look forward to working with all RDACC Board members over the next three years and beyond, to maximise opportunities and achieve results for our beloved Central Coast region.
Together with our CEO & Director Regional Development, John Mouland, the new RDACC Board has already been working hard behind the scenes to give the Coast the best chance of regaining our regional prosperity, as we emerge from extended lockdown periods over the past two years.
The post-lockdown period at the end of this year has proven especially busy. In November, I was invited to speak on a panel at the 2021 AFR Infrastructure Summit, where together with other industry and infrastructure leaders, we discussed the challenges areas such as the Central Coast face in becoming sustainable, and explored possible solutions to future-proof our infrastructure for growth and employment opportunities.
Together with the Urban Development Insitute of Australia (UDIA) NSW, RDACC has also recently hosted our region’s largest development forum, supported by over 40 development organisations. This event is an important first step in ensuring that all three levels of government, developers and regional leaders on the Central Coast work together to achieve enhanced development outcomes.
We have also met with Darkinjung leaders to discuss collaborative opportunities, been a part of the Advanced Manufacturing Roundtable and hosted the NSW Export Capability Building Workshop.
We have relaunched our Quality Development on the Coast series, designed to showcase innovation and excellence in local development and promote our region as a desirable development and investment destination. We continue to support our local business community through the facilitation of grant funding and through our Shop Local campaign this Christmas season.
Following the challenges we have faced, my commitment to #talkupthecoast and bolster regional prosperity is stronger than ever before. I would like to thank all of our board members, regional partners, elected officials and Central Coast residents for the resilience and courage you have shown throughout these difficult times.
On behalf of everyone at RDACC, I wish you a safe, happy and healthy festive season and I look forward to working together to make our unique and wonderful Central Coast region the best it can be in 2022 and beyond.