Population set to boom in Gympie

QUEENSLAND Treasurer Andrew Fraser has acknowledged the inevitability of major population growth in the Gympie Region – and councillors are hoping that means greater government interest in preparing for it.

Mayor Ron Dyne and Planning Committee chairman Ian Petersen both welcomed Mr Fraser’s acknowledgement this week that Gympie’s Wide Bay-Burnett planning region can expect to have 131,000 new residents in 20 years’ time – with 30,000 of them expected to settle in the Gympie Region.

However, both councillors said the growth now forecast by the government would be a disaster without adequate planning for infrastructure and industrial development to ensure that the new residents would have jobs, roads, water and sewerage.

Mr Fraser made the population predictions on Tuesday in Hervey Bay at a meeting to discuss the Wide Bay-Burnett Regional Plan, a land use planning process in which Gympie Regional Council is inextricably involved.

The news followed a public inquiry conducted by the Local Government Association of Queensland, which reported that major population growth in Queensland cannot be stopped without major disruption to Australia’s economy and its international trading relationships.

The report suggested that it was unlikely Australians would accept such measures and advised that governments should prepare for the inevitable.

“Infrastructure needs to be provided,” said Cr Dyne. “Population without employment growth would be a disaster,” Cr Petersen said.

Gympie Regional Council and the Queensland government need to prepare in advance for the population growth, which is likely to almost double the region’s population in the next 20 years, councillors warned yesterday.

“We’re keen to see additional people, but the infrastructure has to be provided,” Mayor Ron Dyne said yesterday.

Speaking outside yesterday’s council Planning and Development Committee meeting at Gympie Town Hall, he said it was important for the region to be on the front foot.

“We’ve got to ensure the infrastructure is there first and not the reverse, as we seem to have done for a number of years. We need those economies of scale (from more residents and ratepayers), but in our case we need infrastructure and we need industrial land, because it’s pointless people coming if they don’t have access to employment.”

Cr Petersen said Gympie’s projected employment growth would add 30,000 people to our existing population of about 48,000.

“We’re keen to see that growth and these new people, providing there are employment opportunities as well,” he said.

“I think there is an onus on the State Government to co-ordinate with councils to ensure there are employment opportunities, because population growth without employment growth is a disaster.

“But with employment growth it is really good, because it assists us with our problem at the moment, which is our very low rates base.”

Fraser Coast Mayor Mick Kruger echoed the sentiments, but said Mr Fraser, who is also Employment and Economic Development Minister, had not given away any details of the highly anticipated regional plan, which will over-ride and determine the shape of council land use planning in both Gympie and Fraser Coast Regions, as well as councils at Bundaberg, North Burnett and South Burnett.

The regional plan, which has been in production for about six months, is expected to be released for public consultation in September.

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