Closer to home

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Closer to home

The pandemic has taught us the importance of greater local autonomy says Justin Boehm, Member Engagement Manager for Australia at LEEA.

The Covid pandemic continues to dominate the agenda as we start 2021. The good news for our region is that the policy of suppressing the virus is resulting in a more positive economic outlook. While economic activity in the year fell due to the imposed restrictions, figures posted in the third quarter of 2020 indicate strong growth, which bodes well for the much hoped for rebound.

The race is now on around the world to get vaccinated and in Australia and New Zealand, an inoculated population will lead to the reopening of borders. This cannot come soon enough for the many businesses and industrial organisations that are looking to the rebound.

Border restrictions have not been able to constrain LEEA, which throughout the pandemic has evolved its online technology and developed Zoom-based learning and audits, where previously this would have involved travel between the UK and Australia and New Zealand.

But the pandemic and its resulting restrictions have further demonstrated the need for greater local autonomy for the Association. To strengthen the Association’s global credentials, and help it to better support members worldwide, LEEA is planning to take the key action of establishing Regional Councils. These will take over control when it comes to directing LEEA operations in the local regions. A council will have the ability to set its own work plans, prioritise the things it wants to deliver and to allocate spending. This will start with Australia and New Zealand.

Anybody currently wanting training in Australia, for example, has to wait for a trainer to arrive from the UK. It’s a similar situation if, say, a member in New Zealand wants an audit carried out. We want to move away from this reliance on travel so that the Association can cut out overheads and invest our resources on delivering for our members serving end users in the region. This does not only apply to the use of Zoom technologies but will also mean giving local teams the ability to perform these functions after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

It is time to have stronger representation on our own shores in Australia and New Zealand. It is reasonable to expect that this move could directly lead to significant growth of membership numbers and, importantly, we can achieve broader recognition. The Association already enjoys a strong reputation in key local industries, with oil and gas, mining and construction the standout examples. However, we are in a sprawling part of the world and there are many more sectors that rely on our members’ technologies, solutions and expertise.

Demand is likely to grow further still as all kinds of post pandemic opportunities open up in our region. Take for example the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), made up of 10 Southeast Asian countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This new free trade bloc covers nearly a third of the world's population and 29% of global gross domestic product. It will be bigger than both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union. The hope is the RCEP will harmonise free trade agreements in the region, boost growth, and enable the creation of flexible and resilient local supply chains  – the need for which has been clearly highlighted by the pandemic.

Mining, manufacturing and construction will continue to grow in our region and we also see opportunities to develop awareness in other sectors, such as the Defence Industry. It has never been more vital for LEEA to demonstrate our closeness to our local members and Lifting Industry, our clear understanding of the regional sector’s characteristics and our agility in reacting to developments – both rapidly and meaningfully.

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