The Friendly Bay Islander - Oct 14, 2013 23:29

Q and A with the Mayor Karen Williams

Redland City Council Mayor, Karen Williams, has just returned from an extended visit to China, Japan and Taiwan in a bid to 'drum up business' for the Redlands. Her efforts are in direct response to her declaration several months ago that Redlands was 'Open for Business' and the announcement by the State Government that Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek were declared Priority Development Areas.

Q1: What was the purpose of your trip?

A1:My recent trip to Taiwan, China and Japan quite simply was to put Redland City on the map and tell everyone I could that this is the best place to live, work and to do business and that we are open for business and investment.

Q2: How were you received in the countries that you visited?

A2: I started the mission by visiting five cities in as many days. I was pleasantly surprised by the response. I think I was able to present our city and all its attractions in a very positive light. The reception I received was unbelievable. In our Sister City Qinhuangdao in China I was met by a large group of city officials when I flew into their airport after midnight. Later in the trip, In Kani City, Japan, I was honoured to be the first person other than an elected Japanese official to address the City Assembly (Council). The South East Queensland Mayors who accompanied me on the trade mission and to the Asia Pacific Cities Summit in Taiwan were also afforded impressive welcomes wherever we went.

Q3: What were you exactly looking for - was it primarily investors for development of the Redlands?

A3:I was determined to tell our Asian hosts and Summit delegates what Redlanders already know – we live in paradise. I wanted them to see some of what makes us such a special place and to know there is enormous investment potential here – on the mainland and on the islands.

Q4: Were you specifically targeting Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek and the benefits that come with being a Priority Development Area?

A4: While Toondah Harbour and Weinam Creek were a focus for me and they offer great potential to investors I certainly did not miss the opportunity to push the barrow for other parts of the city, including the beautiful Southern Moreton Bay Islands, Straddie and Coochie. People just do not realize the potential of these gems, and I am determined to play a role in changing that. The benefits from the PDA projects will flow to the islands and I can see big improvements and opportunities for the islands. I am pleased that island businesses are now realizing the opportunities and they are readying themselves for a brighter future.

Q5: Having two of the declared PDA's in Redlands, do you feel this was an advantage for the Redlands, and was this recognised by those you met with on your trip?

A5: I had more than 40 face-to-face meetings with business people and potential investors in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong before moving on to Japan. I hope I was able to convince them that Redland City is the jewel in the crown of SEQ. There certainly was great interest shown in the PDAs, once I explained the process and how it could help us fast-track development projects. The fact I have already hosted one follow-up fact-finding mission with others to come I think indicates that people with dollars to invest are ready and willing to consider Redland City.

Q6: And what type of people did you meet with in these countries?

A6:The delegation and I were treated with utmost respect in all countries, in true Asian fashion. We met a broad range of business people and civic leaders. Asians are very interested in Queensland, particularly SEQ. They were very impressed by Redland City images and a number have told me they will take up my invitation for them to visit.

Q7: Was there any difference in the reactions to your overtures in each of the countries?

A7:As I said earlier, I was pleasantly surprised by the interest shown in Redland City in all countries and all cities I visited. I guess when you consider this beautiful place with its wonderful lifestyle then its attraction should come as no surprise.

Q8: In your overall picture for the future of the Redlands, where do the Southern Moreton Bay Islands fit?

A8:I have said many times that the SMBI are the undiscovered gems of Redland City. We need to “sell” the islands, to tempt visitors. I have no doubt we can convert visitors to residents once they see for themselves the idyllic lifestyle of the islands and their natural beauty. I know that Council is keen to work with island business people with a view to expanding our tourism offering. I see the islands playing an important role in the development of tourism; there is potential for canoeing, kayaking and other marine activities to really take off. This will not all happen overnight, but we do need to start thinking ahead and to consider what tourism product is needed, or needs to be expanded, to cater for growth in visitors.

Q9: Is there any chance the islands could benefit from any form of future investment as a result of these efforts?

A9: I see great benefits from the Weinam Creek PDA. We will have a first-rate waterfront mixed use development and four magnificent islands a few minutes travel away. That makes them even more attractive, in my view.

By The Friendly Bay Islander