by Dafyd Martindale
The South Burnett Regional Council adopted a new three-year Economic Development Plan at its August monthly meeting.
The plan calls for the region to create 3000 jobs and triple tourist revenue between now and mid-2020, and was developed internally by Council officers.
While it’s good for our Council to have such high aspirational targets – and we agree it’s always better to dream big than small – we think the chances of these goals being fully achieved in the coming 36 months aren’t particularly high.
Tripling tourist revenues isn’t something any other rural Queensland region has ever been able to achieve (not that we’re aware of, anyway).
And creating 3000 jobs in an area with a workforce of 13,000 burdened by 9.1 per cent unemployment would be something rare and wonderful, too.
But if the Council managed to achieve even half of the headline figures in its plan, they would make a significant difference to our local economy.
And they would positively affect the lives of many residents, particularly younger residents in search of a job.
How much of a difference? Well, let’s look at some data:
Last November, the Queensland Resources Council estimated the resources industry directly employed 678 people in the South Burnett in 2015-16 and paid them $100 million in wages.
The Resources Council also said the industry spent an extra $121 million on goods, services and community contributions in our region that year, which in turn helped support an extra 2182 local full-time jobs and value-added a further $228 million to the South Burnett’s economy.
All up, the Resources Council claimed resources injected $449 million into our Gross Regional Product in 2015-16, which accounted for 26 per cent of it; directly employed 678 people; and helped keep a further 2182 jobs going in the wider community.
And in July this year, the Southern Queensland Country regional tourism organisation estimated the South Burnett makes slightly more than $100 million a year from tourism at the moment.
But tripling tourism revenues by 2020 would expand this to $300 million, injecting an extra $200 million a year into our regional economy.
Which would be roughly equivalent to opening another industry the size of Stanwell and/or Meandu Mine.
So putting both these sets of data together, it’s easy to see that even if the Council achieved only half its target, the impact on our local economy would be significant.
We would virtually wipe out most of our unemployment and probably need to import more people to meet demand.
That being so, I think we should all lend our support to the Council’s initiative where we can.
Even something as simple as getting visiting friends and relatives to stay a little bit longer and get out to see what the South Burnett has to offer can make a big difference.
So can talking up the positives of our region, rather than putting it down.
Yes, the Council’s targets may be aspirational. And possibly a little over-optimistic.
But its aim – to turn things around for the better – is something I think most people can easily agree with.