2020: Leaders share their visions of the region’s future
AS THE year's end approaches, our attention turns toward 2020.
What are the aspirations, predictions and plans of our leaders, and what do the experts believe is needed for a prosperous and harmonious future in our diverse and flourishing region?
The CQ News has approached leaders and experts across the Central Highlands, who have shared their visions for the new year.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes
"FIRST and foremost, I'd like to see a wet summer to fill our water storages so all our communities return to adequate and safe supply, and our farmers and graziers can look forward to improved conditions," Cr Hayes said.
Cr Hayes said he was keen to see major projects start such as the Springsure-Tambo Rd, and the opening of the CQ Inland Port.
"We want to advance plans for community facilities such as the Blackwater old pool site and the Emerald arts precinct, as well as CBD improvements in Capella and Springsure," he said.
"And we want the business case for the Nogoa River bridge crossing completed so that our communities and our connectedness are secure."
Lachlan Millar, Member for Gregory
MR MILLAR echoed the hopes of many by saying the first thing on his wish list for 2020 was rain.
He said the government's role was focused on investment in two areas: infrastructure investment and service delivery capacity.
"However, it is the capacity of our communities to deliver services in areas like health, education, disability service, family support and aged care that lets people stay on the Central Highlands," Mr Miller said.
"You cannot say you support the regions if you do not support our regional towns. You cannot say you support coal miners' jobs, if you don't support our coal towns. You cannot say you support agriculture if you let agricultural towns wither and die."
He is advocating for the construction of the full Rookwood Weir; the sealing of the Springsure Tambo Rd; the sealing and upgrading of the feeder roads for the CQ Inland Port; the upgrading of Blackwater Hospital; opening of renal dialysis chairs at Emerald Hospital; construction of a STEM building for Blackwater State High School; upgrading of the pick-up and drop-off zone and bus zone at Emerald State High School; and the development of a CH Family Support Hub to help families of preschool-age children across the Highlands.
Central Highlands Development Corporation general manager Sandra Hobbs
CHDC will start its planning for 2020 next Wednesday, November 27 at the launch of the new Central Highlands Tourism and Events Strategy 2020-2023 at the Tourism and Events Forum, Ms Hobbs said.
"The key to its success will be collaboration," she said.
"CHDC has worked hard to ensure that all the key stakeholders - tourism operators, industry bodies, and government - all have ownership in both the development and implementation of this plan."
Ms Hobbs said another focus would be the Bridging the Skills Gaps project to meet labour needs across the resources, agriculture and tourism sectors.
CQ Job Link has been launched, and next year training programs and workshops will be put into place.
Emerald Chamber of Commerce president Victor Cominos
Mr COMINOS said, historically, the Chamber of Commerce had been driven by local merchants, often including members of the grazing and farming fraternity.
He said to boost and ensure modern-day prosperity in the region, and to increase affluence, jobs need to be created.
"We need to encourage new enterprises to come and establish themselves in Emerald," Mr Cominos said.
He said governments needed to be aware of the need for legislative changes to remove obstacles that hindered the operation and creation of businesses.
"Over the years, excessive regulations and licensing has resulted in entrepreneurs often abandoning new projects. This has got to stop," he said.
AgForce Central Regional president John Baker
Mr BAKER said he was keen for the progression of the Inland Multi-Modal Transport Hub planned for Yamala.
He would also "love to see a positive outcome" in relation to the closure of the agricultural colleges in Emerald and Longreach.
"They've had expressions of interest with a view to taking over the colleges and continuing some form of education but that process is ongoing," Mr Baker said.
"Agriculture is crying out for these types of facilities to be continued and upgraded."
Mr Baker said the agriculture industry overall had been "faring pretty well" as commodity prices in the beef, cotton and grain sectors were "looking good".
"They just need water. We do have droughts, but they haven't been as severe or long-lasting as in other regions," he said.
"More State Government funding was needed for maintenance on infrastructure such as roads," he said.
"People are coping because it's not as dry as other areas. Producers are a pretty resilient bunch and they have a lot of support networks in their own friendships, through industry organisations and in their local communities. People do tend to look out for each other."
Clinton Adams of Clinton Adams & Co Real Estate
Mr ADAMS said there had been a "significant increase" in the median house prices in the region, from $252,000 in May to $320,000 today.
"The last five years has been very challenging in regards to falling property prices and this recent change reveals a recovery that was well overdue," Mr Adams said.
The rental market, Mr Adams said, had also seen rental values increasing and vacancy rates decreasing.
"New developments such as the Emerald Flood Free Wills Road Heavy Industrial subdivision and the New Inland Port will enable and support future long-term growth," he said.
Taylor Byrne: Valuation & Property Consultants branch manager Annette Smith
Ms SMITH said the majority of sales throughout the year had been in the sub-$300,000 price range.
"This is a good indicator of demand and that there is still affordable stock in the market which is important when our median age is between 20 to 39," she said.
She said projects such as SWARM Farm Robotics, the Inland Port, Sojitz Corporation works at Gregory Mine, Wilton and Fair Hill Mines and diversification in rural areas would lead to employment and economic growth.
"To ensure successful growth we need to set the region up to be financial and viable with the opportunity for local and regional investment," Ms Smith said.
She said Emerald had a number of vacant blocks allowing for future development.
"The most significant determinants of the market will be the economic outlook, especially for coal mining and planned new workforces, interest rates and buyer confidence," she said.