Councillor Hermann Vorster represents Division 11 on the City Council of the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. He also chairs the Council’s Economic Development and Major Events Committee. He also serves on the City Planning and City Infrastructure committees.
Just before Christmas 2016 Cr Vorster was the guest speaker at the end of year event hosted by the IT Forum Gold Coast. I was very impressed with his vision of the economic development potential of this local region and seized the opportunity to invite him on to the Let’s Talk Leadership show. Happily, he agreed!
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With 38 kilometers of white, sandy beaches, ancient rainforest and hinterland, the city has great lifestyle appeal and on that basis has had extraordinary growth in a relatively short period: it’s now Australia’s 6th largest city and in area the second largest local government area in Australia.
Historically the economy has depended on construction and tourism, both subject – positively and negatively – to fluctuations in the economy.
The Council’s aim is to position the city to embrace the digital economy, in a way that adds value.
Download the Council’s Economic Development Strategy at this link.
We’re a city that has that entrepreneurial, “have a go” spirit.
Having gained experience in “the crucible of family business”, Cr Vorster became involved in public policy and the media.
Like a lot of people, I got a little bit frustrated with the decisions that were being made around me and decided – foolheartedly, I think – to enter public life.
Leadership and Balancing Interests
We talked about the Council’s decision to make a major investment in telecommunications infrastructure – historically in Australia the preserve of the Federal Government (with some partial involvement at times by State governments). So this was being done in the clear knowledge that there was an element of political risk involved.
Cr Vorster commented that when investment decisions are made for specific economic development projects, some may not see the benefit for them and may feel left out. It’s essential to communicate openly with them and, for instance, point to spillover benefits for other areas of the community.
Bringing the Community with You
To bring the community with you on big decisions, it’s necessary to:
- speak to people in their own language
- research what their priorities are
- respond to what that tells you
He gave the example of a street with schoolteacher residents but no broadband. People understand when the need to remedy that is explained in terms of enabling those teachers to prepare better to teach the community’s children.
The upcoming Commonwealth Games, to be held on the Gold Coast, is a major event, which, like an Olympic Games, is over in a short period of time. What people want is a legacy, so there are key decisions about how to achieve that.
There have been global success stories for businesses built on the Gold Coast.
Important to get those who have success to stick around and thus encourage others.
The Council’s role is to do what it can at a public policy level to create a supportive environment for that.
People do not like change and there is a challenge in how to talk to people about change.
A former Bond University Vice-Chancellor’s Scholar, he has degree qualifications in accounting, corporate strategy and business information systems.
Elected in 2016, Councillor Vorster became the City of Gold Coast’s youngest ever Councillor at age 30. He has had a number of leadership roles in community groups including Gold Coast District Neighbourhood Watch Incorporated and the Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland (CCIQ) Regional Policy Board.
Phone (mobile/cell): In Australia – 0405 414 931 From outside Australia – 61 405414931
- Surfers at Snapper Rocks – Des Walsh
- Gold Coast view by night – Yupeng Wu via Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0