Interview: Mayor of Scenic Rim Regional Council

How digital will boost the region’s tourism growth.

“This year alone, more than 600 million carrots were produced in the Scenic Rim. That’s enough to go around the world three times”, says Greg Christensen, Mayor of the region. Scenic Rim is tucked in South East Queensland, home to six national parks and a world heritage rainforest. Agriculture is a key driver of its economy. In 2015, 80 percent of the state was hit hard by drought, which laced its residents with doubt in the economy. One of his challenges has been to overcome that. “There are times when people in parts of an economy and parts of a region will feel that it’s all very hard, it’s all too hard, and maybe we shouldn’t push forward”, but “our job as leaders is to help people recognise the opportunities”. Christensen tells GovInsider how the Scenic Rim remains optimistic, and what is spurring the local economy. Turning digital The council is turning to digital means to boost tourism and businesses. They are placing the region's businesses and services on a one-stop shop for the public “to shop for the experience they can have”, he says. This may range from emerging agricultural technologies, food or product supplies, events and tourism experiences. “The identity Scenic Rim is little known in the world yet, so we see this as an opportunity to present [our] brand”, he says. greg christensen (2) He recommends Mount Barney for a walk through “spectacular terrain”; Lake Wyralong for rowing or water activity, and even offers a motor park for action enthusiasts. Digital platforms will also allow businesses to better market tourism packages, he says. Christensen describes his home as “an undiscovered gem”; a four day mountain biking experience lets people cut through one of the region’s national parks, for instance. “The digital footprint has made that product much more accessible for people to find out about, to digitally explore it in preparation for signing up.” Christensen plans to market the region globally through big-name expos and showcases. Over the next few years, his team will look to attract more tourists from Asian countries. Ongoing priorities The council is also consulting citizens to revitalise its town centres, and has come forth with a community plan that runs for another ten years. “It’s a very iterative process,” Christensen says. His team is informing the residents on “where we prioritise, how we prioritise, and what that comes to look like to satisfy those communities”, he says. The region’s largest spending lies in building road infrastructure. “We have 18,000 kilometres of roads in our region, and because a lot of those are in rural areas, they are subjected to a lot of traffic”, he explains. Maintaining high quality roads will boost its tourism and agriculture sectors, and is critical to productivity in the region, Christensen adds. An inland port will also provide the region with more diverse jobs. This holds the potential of driving the local economy to “a different range of smart industries that tap into new technologies and skills, and bring new thinking into the area”, he says. view from mayors house (1) Tourists may travel to explore the scenic wonders the region has to offer. But Mayor Christensen’s all-time favourite spot is the view from his verandah at home. “I look out over a rich agricultural valley in front of me, and I look into a set of mountains and ranges behind that, and I get to celebrate that whole range of aspects from our wonderful agriculture to our spectacular environment from my doorstep. I am very privileged.” Last image shows the view from the Mayorˈs verandah