August 2, 2017
Electricity prices are out of control, Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington told the Kingaroy Chamber Of Commerce and Industry at the KCCI’s latest Meet’n’Greet on Monday night.
They are so out of control that last month the LNP asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate Stanwell and CS Energy for price gouging, she said.
While the State Government has rejected claims both electricity generators artificially drove up power prices in January just before electricity prices were set, it directed them to change their practices in June.
Mrs Frecklington said the Opposition understood the ACCC was looking into the matter and she hoped there would be a positive outcome from their investigation.
High power prices not only hurt ordinary consumers but hurt local businesses as well, she said.
She also warned the State Government’s push to get 50 per cent of the State’s power generated by renewable energy sources by 2030 would cost Queenslanders $4 billion a year.
Mrs Frecklington, a former secretary of the KCCI, said she had been elected to Parliament in 2012 and had been in Government her first term and in Opposition the next.
Of the two, she preferred to be in Government and hoped to be back there after the next election.
She said her two major goals when she was first elected were to get funding for a new Kingaroy Hospital and a new police station, and she was pleased both had been accomplished.
Her current goals are to get better funding for roads, more water for agriculture and lower power prices for everyone.
“We have had $200 million ripped out of our regional road funding by this State Government and we should all be angry about that,” Mrs Frecklington said.
KCCI president Rob Fitz-Herbert told the meeting there had been continuing positive news for the South Burnett since the last Meet’n’Greet six weeks ago.
Kingaroy’s new $8.2 million police station had been officially opened, a $7 million highway upgrade near Cooyar had been announced, and cattle prices had stayed strong at local saleyards.
The Red Earth Foundation had announced a new annual $1000 bursary to help local women; the recent South Burnett Careers Market at TAFE saw a record roll-up of close to 1000 students; and thanks to Jason Ford and a group of nine regional wine and food producers, the South Burnett received a lot of positive publicity at Regional Flavours.
The annual Dinner With The Captains had drawn 400 people and looked like being another very successful fundraiser for Relay For Life; Bunnings have announced plans to open a branch in Kingaroy; and plans to create a 51-unit lifestyle village in Kingaroy have also been announced.
Mr Fitz-Herbert said these were all positive signs and so was the Meet’n’Greet’s big roll-up, which included many businesses attending for the first time.
Kingaroy Shoppingworld Centre Manager Chris O’Rourke told the meeting that since the last Meet’n’Greet Robinson’s Newsagency had expanded to roughly double its former size, and now provided another entrance into the complex.
The new Muffin Break store was expected to open on August 15, and Brumby’s Bakery recently celebrated its 15th year of operations at Shoppingworld.
Mr O’Rourke also told the meeting that Woolworths will be undertaking a minor refit over the Ekka long weekend, which would provide some extra facilities for customers.
The KCCI and the South Burnett Regional Council will be jointly hosting an RV Tourism information workshop next month.
The workshop will be presented by the Australian Caravan Club and will show operators who make money from RV tourism the key drivers for this market segment and how they can encourage more RV visitors to their businesses.
Topics that will be covered include the value of the industry to regional communities; opportunities to access the RV market; what RV enthusiasts might be looking for when they visit communities and individual businesses; and information sources local businesses can use.
The free workshop will be held at Kingaroy Town Hall’s Reception Room at 5:30pm on Tuesday, September 5.
South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said the Council had also had some positive news this year.
The SBRC received a $4.2 million windfall grant from the first round of the State Government’s new Works For Queensland program, and was recently told it would receive a further $4.3 million from the program’s second round, to be spent over the coming two years.
The Mayor said while he was aware everyone ultimately paid for any grants governments hand out, the Works For Queensland grants were like “money from heaven” because they allowed the Council to tackle maintenance projects it didn’t normally have the funds to undertake.
Harking back to Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington’s earlier talk, Mayor Campbell said his own priorities were closely aligned to hers.
Roads and their ability to carry heavy transport were a top priority because of the limitations lack of heavy transport routes imposed on the local economy.
So too was water, which inhibited Kingaroy’s growth in particular and the growth and profitability of the South Burnett’s agricultural industries in general.
“We are an agricultural area and there’s an old saying: if the farmers do well, so do our businesses,” the Mayor said.
A third priority was to ensure Council made good decisions because the quality of decisions taken today would affect the quality of life and the sustainability of the region in the future.
Since the last Meet’n’Greet, the Mayor said the Council had brought down its 2017-18 Budget which would see it return a small surplus at the cost of a small reduction in staff.
The Council had also decided to set aside money over the following two Budgets so it could build up a war chest for a Kingaroy CBD makeover.
Council was now calling for a person or business to lease the Coolabunia Saleyards, and had recently held a tourism forum in an effort to discover why some sections of the economy were struggling while others were not.
“We’re not in possession of perfect knowledge about all issues, so we’re always happy to hear your thoughts and views,” the Mayor said.
Finally, the Mayor asked listeners to consider the promotional impact of slightly altering a common phrase.
“When people ask me where I come from, I tell them I come from the South Burnett but I live in Kingaroy,” he said.
“You might not live in Kingaroy but it doesn’t matter if you live in Murgon, Wondai, Nanango, Blackbutt or anywhere else – you come from the South Burnett, too.
“If we all said it that way, I think it would make a big difference over time.”
The meeting was also addressed by Paula Greenwood, from the Wine And Food In The Park Festival, who said the Festival committee were looking for new members.
Cr Danita Potter reminded everyone the Council’s Community Grants were opening on August 1 and applications would close at the end of the month.
BIEDO CEO Kristy Frahm also reminded everyone the newly formed South Burnett Community Agriculture Network would be holding a workshop at Wondai Town Hall at 5:30pm on Wednesday, August 2.
The night’s final speaker was Jason Kinsella, from the newly formed Visit South Burnett local tourism organisation.
Mr Kinsella said the group had been formed because the region’s tourism industry has been challenged over the past few years, and the eight people on the group’s management committee would like to improve regional tourism.
“Our experience with local government and local hospital boards shows that local solutions to local problems work best, and we think that applies to fixing tourism too,” Mr Kinsella said.
The group intends to undertake a membership drive soon.
The KCCI’s next Meet’n’Greet will be a breakfast meeting at Kingaroy TAFE on Tuesday, September 19.
The six-weekly meetings are open to all South Burnett businesses – whether they’re KCCI members or not – and are held at a different local business each time.
A $10 meeting fee applies to cover the cost of drinks and nibbles.