What is the state of the South Burnett?
DOZENS of projects have been announced throughout the South Burnett this year.
From strong government investment, to private enterprise expanding and coming to the region, these developments have led Mayor Keith Campbell to declare the South Burnett open for business.
A major expansion at Swickers, which was announced in September, will lead to 110 new long-term jobs, as well as 100 construction jobs.
A new $62million Kingaroy Hospital was announced in June and Australia's largest wind farm at Coopers Gap is set to open in 2019.
G Crumpton and Sons have announced their expanding operations in Kingaroy by building a seed processing plant, and a development application has been lodged to build a large solar farm just outside Kingaroy.
Bunnings has begun the process to open a warehouse in the region and the new Kingaroy Court House is in the final stages of construction.
Kingaroy streetscapes will also look different, with the South Burnett Regional Council embarking on a $4million beautification project. Toowoomba Regional Council will also spend $300,000 to improve the Yarraman streetscape.
As well as these large-scale projects there are several smaller ones, such as a new supermarket in Blackbutt and new service stations around the region.
The South Burnett Economy at a glance
- According to the South Burnett Economic Brief from March 2017, in the 2014-15 financial year the South Burnett economy shrunk in real terms by 3.3%.
- The estimated Gross Regional Product (GRP) for the South Burnett region was $1.7billion in 2015-16.
- The top five industries in the region are agriculture/forestry/fishing, electricity/gas/ water/waste services, health care/social assistance, manufacturing and construction.
- Between 2015 and 2016 the number of small businesses dropped by 2.1%.
- Between 2016 and 2017 the number of employed people in the region grew by 4.6%, to 12,932 out of a total population size of 32,589.
South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said the string of developments planned for the region would help improve the economy in the next few years.
"I think it is vital to keep a positive attitude and acknowledge whilst we'd all like to see more new business to create new jobs, there is already a lot of development work going on in the region," Cr Campbell said.
"Empty shops are not a true reflection of the economic health of the South Burnett."
Cr Campbell said the council had a number of projects that have either been approved by council or are waiting for approval.
"In addition to the Coopers Gap Wind Farm (approved by the State Government) and the new general hospital, construction projects exceeding $1billion will occur in the South Burnett over the next two to four years. This will create many new jobs," he said.
"It's important to recognise those businesses in the region that have grown significantly. One that is powering on after the disaster is Swickers. They are now the largest employer in the region with over 700 employees.
"The South Burnett has improved its relationship with developers. A new Town Plan has been adopted. We are open for business and will welcome newcomers."
Cr Campbell said the Tarong Power Station was also vital to the ongoing economy of the region.
"The future of the Tarong Power Station and the government's renewable energy targets represents an issue that has consequences for our region," he said.
"We support the continuation of the coal-fired power station and recognise Tarong as a major employer. Until recently they were the largest employer, recently overtaken by Swickers."
Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation CEO Kristy Frahm said the projects would have a flow-on effect across the whole region.
"When you're talking about investment in the region and expansion that leads to increased employment opportunities in turn increasing the cash flow in our local economies," she said.
She said the economic benefits of the projects would be even greater if local small businesses were used in the construction process.
"With the hospital, we will have a fantastic upgraded facility which will provide a great source of health support for our region, but I'd love to think that a lot of our local businesses would also benefit from that upgrade," Ms Frahm said.
"What I'd like to see with those investments coming into the region, far be it from me to say whether it will actually happen or not, I want to see them support our local tradies, businesses and sourcing as many things locally as they can."
Ms Frahm said the recent week of heavy rainfall also added a boost to the local economy.
"It's raining outside, which will mean increased volumes of feed for our cattle industry, and give crop farmers the opportunity now to put in a crop," she said.
"Leading up to the end of winter and early spring, things were starting to look quite drastic for some people.
"There was some concern around the outlook going into summer, if we had not received the current rain event, we'd be looking at a whole different picture now."
Ms Frahm said she believed rain would encourage people who live based off the weather to spend locally.
"People feel more confident, so financially the outlook will be better than before we got the rain," she said.
"That means people will spend more, small businesses will be better off because of that financial investment. The general outlook has lifted but the issues entirely haven't been solved."
People feel more confident, so financially the outlook will be better than before we got the rain. Kristy Frahm
Ms Frahm said the recent developments and rainfall would not fully solve the issues facing the local economy.
"There are many challenges, but so many organisations, people and council are working together to come up with solutions," she said.
Ms Frahm said telecommunications and access to data remained one of the major issues facing the South Burnett economy, though recent data expansions with the Sky Muster satellite data allowance would help.
Nanango MP Deb Frecklington echoed comments by Ms Frahm, insisting agriculture is key to the South Burnett economy expanding in the next few years.
"Instead of reinventing the wheel we need to add on to what we've got, we can add on to agriculture manufacturing," Mrs Frecklington said.
"Diversification of agriculture industries is key, which I think we can still add to.
"There are upgrades of the Boondooma Dam wall, which provides water security for that area. We're at the cusp of really kicking some goals in the Burnett."
Mrs Frecklington said improvements to the region's road network were needed for the agriculture industry to expand.
"I know of a major feedlot that could increase production if they had better connectivity by road," she said.
"We need to increase spending on major road arterials."
Mrs Frecklington said youth unemployment, which sits at 23.6%, is another major issue in the region that needs addressing.
"We have a high youth unemployment rate and a problem with drugs and ice in this region," she said.
"We need to be looking at how we can help people fix the root of the problem while keeping people in the Burnett while they recover and get back on to the path for work. That is why I talk about a clubhouse model."
What developments you'd like to see:
South Burnett residents took to Facebook to talk about what developments they would like to see in the region. Most were based around either retail or recreation activities.
Rachele Bullen said she would like to see more development aimed at children.
"How about a water playground for the kids? Would be great for our long hot summers," she said.
"But I suppose we would need some rain first."
Chris Taylor said he would like to see more entertainment options.
"A modern up-to-date hotel that caters for families with great food and some entertainment on a weekend arvo," he said.
Petra Harris said she would like more infrastructure for furry friends.
"A much bigger and better dog park with a waterhole for dogs who like to swim would be nice," she said.
"Also an agility course and more seating."
A number of people said they would also like to see a Kmart, Coles and Hungry Jack's come to the region.