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‘It’s quite sad’: Uncertainty looms over chamber’s future after president resigns

Suzanne Bassette resigned from the position last month, and prior to that, the chamber had also lost its secretary, leading to stress, untenable workload and minimal work-life balance for Ms Bassette. Ms Pacini said she sympathised with Ms Bassette, who “had some really” good ideas, but she wasn’t sure if the organisation could be revived. “It’s quite sad, I would like to see something and I know there’s still committee members who are currently trying to work out whether to call it a day, or try and revive it.”Ms Pacini said while it would be optimal to have an operating chamber that organised high-profile events and opportunities for the town, it was unlikely the community had the volunteer force to achieve. “Since Covid, all businesses are just trying to work hard and move forward and everyone seems like they would be too busy. But I think we need something, even as little as catch-ups between the business owners.” WEDNESDAY: MAJOR plans for Innisfail came undone as the chamber of commerce president abruptly resigned from her position. The Innisfail and District Chamber of Commerce has gone into hibernation following president Suzanne Bassette’s resignation from her role in late April, after taking the job in September 2021. The token initiative in Ms Bassette’s tenure was set to be a landmark business audit of the town, which she said would identify what services actually existed, what was needed, and help develop a strategy for Innisfail to grow into an economic sister suburb of Cairns. Part of her vision was to encourage locals to accept the town’s weaknesses, such as retail in comparison to Cairns, and instead focus on building economic opportunities for Cairns’ growing industries, such as marine services.However, that dream all came undone due to a failed grant, stress, and, chamber workload and staffing availability, with Ms Bassette going on to detail systemic issues with the organisation.“We missed out on a $3000 grant to do the first business audit of our region’s town centre since 2015,” Ms Bassette said. “And we had lost our secretary and the rest of the committee took a back seat.“The grant failed and basically I lost my cool at the frustration of the job.”But for Ms Bassette, that was just the final tipping point. “Over the past several years, the local business attitude became that the chamber was no value unless you are a retailer and when Covid happened the chamber stopped charging fees and went dormant. When I came to the president’s role the task was mammoth to reactivate the chamber, bring the council to the negotiation table, prove a value proposition to businesses to rejoin and pay fees and be involved. “Our riverfront activation project is a good example of where things went so wrong. We did the research, we made submissions, we organised meetings. “There was a new buyer for the marina and we were making headways to get the river dredged. All things looked good until we missed some paperwork deadlines and there were some reasons behind that’s.” Ms Bassette said she feared organisations like the chamber of commerce just weren’t sustainable in towns like Innisfail. “Since I came to Innisfail I have seen two local groups die, at least three become wholly palliative, others are just managing on life support. Most concerningly I see no evidence of the emergence of new kinds of community motivated groups. “New events struggle to happen or are bureaucratically impossible to hold. You just can’t find people to help or with group skills or an understanding of what ‘doing community’ involves. I think this problem extends all across Queensland for towns that are bigger than villages but too small to get serious support.”As for solutions to establish and operate successful community advocacy groups such a chamber of commerce in Innisfail, Ms Bassette said simply “teaming up” with Cairns for an overarching chamber was not the answer. “Cairns’ chamber has the benefit of large businesses paying corporate fees and also the critical ‘city’ mass of people who want to be involved backed by an office run by paid staff. Mareeba similarly is funded by their council (I am led to believe) so they can afford staff and glossy publications. “Neither of those groups will be terribly interested in being part of something they don’t benefit from. “The real need is for a new kind of model where the handful of people who are motivated to do good work in these smaller satellite towns can actually do work without getting bogged down by boring meetings and endless bureaucracy and constitutional requirements. I would like to point out that nearly 30 years ago in Canada, compulsory volunteering was introduced as part of the school curriculum in a number of states. The results were staggering and their communities are way more vibrant than we see here as a result, regardless of Netflix and online entertainment. A simple change making for an amazing result.” Cairns Post where to get [email protected]

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