“YP Gold Coast sat down with Gold Coast Mayor, Tom Tate, ahead of this year’s City Leaders Forum. Here’s what he had to say.

What do you love about the Gold Coast?

The fact that we have grown considerably but we have retained the village feel that is so evident in each precinct, not only along the coastline but in our hinterland. For example, Mudgeeraba and its markets and village music scene is distinctly different to Miami Marketta or Burleigh Heads. The same with Nightquarter in Helensvale. Each area of the city is parochial about its own ‘village’. I love that.

Do you think the Gold Coast has potential to become a global city? If so, what is holding us back right now?

Access to world leading IT and fibre optics is holding us back – but not for long. By December this year, we will have laid around 45km of the world’s best high speed fibre optic along the light rail route and even further south to Coolangatta. This will be an absolute game changer for large businesses, research companies, medical science and technology start-ups to seriously look at our city.

In your travels, what have you seen done in other cities that you believe could work well on the Gold Coast?

Better public transport. Pure and simple. We are doing a lot but we have a long way to go. If I had my way, we’d have light rail all the way to Coolangatta and the airport by now and we’d have a network of express buses running east and west off the light rail spine.

What is your grand vision for the Gold Coast? What do you want it to look like in 20 years?

To retain the connectivity of people and the community spirit. Last year, we put out a call for 15,000 volunteers to be Games ambassadors and we got 47,000. Amazing. And of the 47,000, 80 percent were from the Gold Coast. I never want to see that diminish. Twenty years from now, I want the Goldie to be a lifestyle and business city for not only Australia, but a city of choice for investors from the ASEAN and UAE powerhouse economies. We will get there and that will create a dynamic economy where our children can secure high paying jobs right here in the city they love.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Gold Coast? And do you have a solution?

National perception that we are still a holiday-only destination. That is changing fast as people see what we are achieving, not only with the Games but in medical research, tertiary education and the film industry. But national perception is a challenge and it’s ironic that overseas, many countries have a very positive outlook on the Gold Coast. Our other big challenge will be to stay relevant to the free-independent-traveller (FIT). World economies are growing and every month, millions of more people have the capacity to travel as their wealth is changing. These same people have so many choices as to where they want to go, and what they want to see. So we need to renew our tourism products – both manmade and natural – to stay relevant to domestic tourists, and international visitors.

What advice would you give today’s young professionals and future leaders of the city?

Dream big and get the support you need. Surround yourself with people who share your vision. Sometimes, even business rivals can share ideas and opportunities and get the best outcome for their own businesses, and the city. Keep a close eye on debt and manage your affairs so you can weather the storms that will come your way as a business leader or entrepreneur. And lastly, make sure you are doing something you are truly passionate about.

Mayor Tom Tate is one of the many exciting panel speakers for the 2017 City Leaders Forum.”