Reimagining is always easier in a crisis or time of challenge. Such occasions are often unwelcome and uninvited, but are times to reflect on what is.

A chance to consider, to re-design, to plan for, or more constructively, do things better or differently. It’s also a time to dare.

We live in a contradictory world. On the one hand we have a geo-political trend towards tribal nationalism, unilateralism, and increasingly, aggressive patriotism.

On the other hand, we have an all-pervading global health and economic pandemic which requires greater global co-operation, collaboration, compliance, and multilateral action than ever before. If this contradiction is not positively reconciled, the negative consequences and extent of the pandemic will be catastrophic.

Yet, some green shoots of success are slowly but surely emerging in the wake of the pandemic and its economic and social implications.

Slowly, and sometimes in a one step forward and two steps back pattern, communities of various types are coming together, working together, looking out for one another, demanding community compliance for the good of all, seeking common solutions, supporting good leadership, seeking and demonstrating genuine goodwill, and above all, rejecting political bravado and the usual tit-for-tat that exists in politics.

Indeed, success to date lies in those communities/countries with relatively united political leadership across the board. Such is the case in Australia and here in Tasmania. Our various leaders are to be congratulated, thanked, and supported. The mantra of us all being in this together has to be translated into remedial and longer-term action locally, nationally, and globally.

Strong bi-partisan leadership, timely, appropriate, and professional advice across various public sector agencies, and widespread social compliance in tackling the deadly health threat of COVID-19 has, to date, resulted in a safer Tasmania. Unfortunately, our economy is seriously and negatively affected.

In the wake of this ongoing challenge – unprecedented in scope and without a forecast end in sight – an opportunity exists for our region to re-imagine what we have and how we can do what we do better and more effectively.

The first thing is to reaffirm and commit to those things we cherish and value. There is a pride in where we live and in those that we live with. It’s by no means perfect but it is home and greatly appreciated now more than ever.

Our region has a reputation for being resilient. I have seen this time and again since moving here in 1975. We have faced economic challenges before and coped with them as best we could. One innovative solution some twenty years ago was the creation of the Cradle Coast Authority – a representative body to advocate for and with our 9 local Councils from the West Coast to King Island, and east to Latrobe and Kentish.

Our region works best when it acts together. It can and does rally quickly and effectively when necessary, whether it be to tackle a shared project, or at times of natural disasters, economic downturns, political threats, and now during COVID-19.

Given the severe economic hit on our Member Councils, and the need to streamline economic recovery in our region, now is a good time for our Councils to comprehensively tackle larger scale resource sharing across the region. Planning services would be a good start.

This is not “the thin edge of the wedge for amalgamation” but a common-sense approach to providing common services, more cost effectively and efficiently, as well as creating a critical mass of professional service providers in our region to attract the best people to work collaboratively and collectively. It would also lead to greater consistency across the region, which would be welcomed by homeowners, tradespeople and developers.

Creating a Cradle Coast Regional Planning Service to coordinate and share the planning  resources of Councils would be a good beginning. This happens in part already in a couple of Council areas, and there is a similar model in existence regarding waste management.

Imagine if you will a common, shared, regional planning team with a one-stop access point for all planning applications and an associated advisory service. The technologies and ITC platforms exist to make this service truly regional in extent and nature.

Streamlining our various planning requirements and services into a regional framework would aid economic recovery in our region and make doing business and investment across the board easier and more attractive.

Our world has changed. The time is right. The need is there. It just needs the will.

– The Hon. Sid Sidebottom, Chair, Cradle Coast Authority