CONTROVERSIAL State Government asset sale plans could present a major employment opportunity for the Gympie Region, a meeting of councillors and business leaders heard this week.
However, Mayor Ron Dyne told the meeting of his disappointment with government reaction to the council plan. This plan involves purchasing and redeveloping part of the Toolara forestry area, currently up for sale, to produce a major and much needed industrial estate for labor intensive and hard-to-locate businesses.
“I spoke to Deputy Premier Paul Lucas about the Toolara development, but didn’t get the answers I expected.
“He tended to dance around the issues rather than making a concrete decision,” the Mayor said.
A delegation of business leaders involved in the employment-oriented Keep Australia Working project, told councillors of the need for business and local government to work together on employment issues, “not only because council is one of our largest employers, but because council decisions affect business and employment opportunities”.
The delegation, led by Keep Australia Working executive Garry Davison, included leading business identities Kerren Smith of Smith’s Engineering, Brendan Paterson of Cooloola Civil Construction, Michael Nolan of Nolans Meats, and Glenn Smith of Budget Steel and Cavalier Engineering.
Kerren Smith said Gympie’s major location advantage near Brisbane markets, ports and a rapidly growing international airport created tremendous opportunities, but a big problem was the availability of development land.
“We need to get Gympie on the map as one of the top three areas to invest in Queensland.
“Geography is in our favour.
“We can parallel what Ipswich has done in the western corridor.
“We can do it in the northern corridor,” he said.
He also called for accelerated processes to make land available for redevelopment.
“Businesses need to be able to open their doors within 12 months of making application.
“Projects are by-passing Gympie and going to Bundaberg, because they are shovel-ready,” he said.
Glenn Smith told of his firm’s success in using Gympie as a hub for sending steel goods all across the state.
“We’re now shipping product all over Queeensland. It’s very easy to move goods all over from here,” he said.
“I think it’s very important to have a commercial/industrial model to identify Gympie as the best place to come.”
Brendan Paterson said Mr Davison’s role as regional employment planner for Keep Australia Working was set to finish in June next year.
“It’s important that we have a framework that goes beyond next June,” he said, adding there was a need for regular communication and “some forum between business and council”.
Michael Nolan said it was important that industry be developed reasonably close to residential areas.
“We need jobs within 12km of residences,” he said.
“If we’re looking at jobs for people who don’t have cars, we need industrial hubs close to residences and not too far out of town.”
Cr Dyne said industrial land needed detailed planning.
Planning Committee chairman Ian Petersen said there was an urgent need “to bring some reality to the State Government.
“The Industrial Land Use Study identifies an immediate need for 30ha of new industrial land and a medium term need for 200ha, but then another government department says we only need about 60ha by 2031.”