Southlake Business Chamber and Community Alliance reaches out for stakeholder input to help determine its priorities

ENGAGING: Fiona Hall is inviting more Southlake businesses and community members to join the alliance and help shape a prosperous future for the district. Picture: David Stewart
ENGAGING: Fiona Hall is inviting more Southlake businesses and community members to join the alliance and help shape a prosperous future for the district. Picture: David Stewart

THERE are those who will sit back and complain that Southlake communities always cop bum deals. 

They will point out how Morisset, Cooranbong, Bonnells Bay, Wyee and Dora Creek don’t get a fair slice of the resources pie from Lake Macquarie City Council or the state government.

And then there are those who acknowledge the bum deals, but are prepared to do something about it.

Southlake Business Chamber and Community Alliance (SBCCA) wants more people from the second camp to join them.

“We need to find those champions of this community,” SBCCA president Fiona Hall said.

“We need to find people who have a passion for a local issue.”

Ms Hall said there was no shortage of issues that local people had strong views about.

These ranged from the proposed traffic bypass of the Morisset CBD, and the future of Morisset Memorial Hall, to Trinity Point, land at Morisset Hospital, and the council’s infrastructure and service priorities for the district.

What’s lacking, it seems, is a representative, organised and tenacious voice to lobby decision makers, and help to make things happen.

Similarly, locals have plenty of ideas for community events that could and should be held in Southlake towns.

Do these towns lack enough community-minded volunteers and financial backing to produce and stage the events? Or is lack of public demand for such events the problem?

One thing’s for sure: What’s needed are clearly defined objectives, unity of purpose, and a better understanding of what the community wants and needs in order to prosper.

That’s why SBCCA is working on a strategic plan that will involve finding out what stakeholders want.

“We aren’t well looked after, and we’re trying to get noticed down here by council and the state government,” Ms Hall said.

PURPOSE: Fiona Hall said engaging with stakeholders - from all walks of life - would help SBCCA to determine its focus and priorities. Picture: David Stewart

PURPOSE: Fiona Hall said engaging with stakeholders - from all walks of life - would help SBCCA to determine its focus and priorities. Picture: David Stewart

SBCCA is getting back on its feet, after coming back from the brink last September when a motion to wind up the organisation was defeated.

Ms Hall heads a new committee elected in December that includes vice-president David Brockwell, secretary June Austen, treasurer Desiree Szeszeran, and committee member Cornelium Szeszeran.

There are now 50 financial members of the alliance, Ms Hall said.

The new committee has also overseen a change in focus for the organisation. Critics say SBCCA has essentially become a business chamber, at the expense of the ‘community’ part of the alliance.

Ms Hall makes no apologies for that.

“The previous SBCCA had lost a lot of business focus,” she said.

“And that’s in no way being disparaging to them. They did a great job to keep the alliance going. They tried to do the best with what they were doing, but I just thought their focus was a bit off.

“I think you need to have businesses on board.

“At the end of the day, if you have a strong business community, you’ll have a strong community.”

The group holds business networking breakfasts on the third Wednesday of the month, and regularly hosts 20 or 30 people. Evening sessions will start soon.

Ms Hall said SBCCA had been in a “suck it and see” mode this year.

“We didn’t want to rush into anything. We wanted to see if we could engage with people,” she said.

“Now we’re at a point where we want to find out what our stakeholders want. And that will help to frame out strategic plan.”

Ms Hall hopes that now the wider community – including mums and dads, employees, students, and retirees – could see that SBCCA was established, they would get on board, join the organisation, and bring their ideas and expertise to the table.

“Businesses and the community have got to work together,” she said.

“Let’s see where the most common good is going to be. We don’t currently have any great agenda yet because we haven’t done enough consultation.”

Annual membership to SBCCA costs $25 for individuals and families. It costs $90 for a business.