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Faster, higher, stronger: Council’s recovery plan has an Olympic ring to it

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Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner believes the city can recover from the economic crisis faster and stronger than other state capitals

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Buoyed by the National Cabinet and State Government last week setting out a timeframe for bans to be lifted and restrictions eased, Schrinner said Brisbane City Council would help business, industry and the community get back on track.

Consulting widely on the way forward, the council is already reviewing its fees and charges and refocussing Brisbane Marketing to support the struggling tourism and international education sectors.

Consultancy firm SGS recently published economic activity maps showing Brisbane faced a decline in economic growth of up to 10 per cent this year due to the pandemic and associated setbacks. However, Sydney and Melbourne could take a hit as high as 12.5 per cent, leaving Brisbane comparatively better off.

“If we can develop a strong plan and respond quicker than cities like Sydney and Melbourne, that does give us a competitive advantage,” Schrinner told InQueensland.

Schrinner said while his council was larger than others in Australia, it did not control all the levers in the economy, and had to look for maximum impact wherever possible.

“We do around $1 billion worth of procurement each year as a council, with a target of 80 per cent going to local businesses,” he said.

The council, like others, has been in talks with state and federal governments about major projects that might be brought forward to help stimulate the economy.

“I expect some form of announcement in the coming weeks,” Schrinner said.

Such projects, particularly in road and transport infrastructure, have the potential to transform the city. Work on an SEQ City Deal and a bid for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics – which promise to launch Brisbane into a new era – have been delayed but remain in train.

“Is the Olympics a top priority for the three levels of government? Not right now, but I don’t think work should stop either,” Schrinner said.

The council budget will be handed down on June 17. Despite having to make assumptions on funding from other levels of government, who have postponed their budgets, Schrinner said there would be no mass layoffs, and council-funded projects such as the Brisbane Metro and bridges would still go ahead.

“There definitely will have to be some belt tightening but we will cut the cloth to measure,” he said.

To help the city recover, the council is looking to coordinate a much broader response than just its own. Soon after the election, Schrinner established an economic recovery taskforce to consult with stakeholders, gather information and intelligence, and help plot the best way out.

The independent, non-profit Committee for Brisbane has called for an industry-led response, believing every sector is facing different challenges but each with the best insight into what is needed. Committee CEO Barton Green said traditional responses alone would not have the required impact.

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