Kingaroy is a hive of construction activity at the moment and South Burnett mayor Keith Campbell couldn’t be happier.
Swickers is making rapid progress on their new $60 million slaughter room, which will increase the plant’s potential processing capacity almost three-fold when it’s finished early next year.
The first parts of the new kill floor’s metal skeleton have already gone up, and its roof is expected to be finished in mid-July.
Meanwhile, Liberty Oil is constructing a modern service station at 125-127 Youngman Street on the site of a former bulk fuel depot that sat vacant for more than a decade.
And in Kingaroy Street, Astill’s Electrical are building a new showroom and workshop for their rapidly expanding company that will incorporate a storage shed complex at the rear.
An industrial estate in lower Youngman Street, opposite the ten pin bowling alley, now has a second building awaiting an operator after the estate’s first building was tenanted by Burnett Water Services.
In the retail arena, McDonalds Family Restaurant underwent a significant upgrade last year; Kingaroy’s Club Hotel is currently undergoing refurbishment; and Ken Mills Toyota’s River Road car dealership unveiled a big expansion in March to accommodate the company’s Kia, Isuzu and Mahindra car franchises.
Three multi-million public infrastructure projects are also proceeding.
Last week, work started on a new $1.86 million roundabout at the intersection of Rogers Drive and the D’Aguilar Highway – a project expected to take six months.
Work is also progressing on the $62 million redevelopment of Kingaroy Hospital, which is expected to keep contractors busy until early 2021.
And Stage 2 of Kingaroy State High School’s $7.5 million performing arts centre is on track for completion later this year.
This flurry of public infrastructure spending comes after the town’s new $2.9 million ambulance station, its new $8 million police station and the $5.3 million refurbishment of Kingaroy’s courthouse were all completed during the past four years.
It also comes in advance of the Council’s own plans to spend up to $8 million refurbishing the town’s CBD; Kingaroy SupaIGA’s plan to expand their supermarket with four new mini-stores; and a new Bunnings approved for a pair of vacant blocks near the Rogers Drive estate.
Mayor Campbell said the number of developments underway in Kingaroy indicated strong faith in the region’s future by the local business community.
However, they weren’t the only projects happening in the South Burnett.
A new IGA supermarket opened in Blackbutt last month; work is proceeding on a new service station in George Street, Nanango; Murgon’s IGA supermarket has been given permission to expand; and the Council recently issued development approvals for two piggeries at Hivesville and Windera which will allow them to more than triple their current output.
Last October, the Council also gave the go-ahead for a 51-unit relocatable home park to be built at the corner of Buckingham and Logan streets in Kingaroy.
In recent months the region’s flat real estate market has seen an upturn, and Mayor Campbell believes at least part of the turnaround is due to the Council adopting a more pro-development attitude over the past year.
“When I was elected as Mayor the Council didn’t have a good name with a lot of developers, and I set out to improve that,” the Mayor said.
“I met with them, found out what their problems were and then looked at what we could do to improve things.
“I think we’ve now found a happy medium that secures the community’s interests but makes our region a more attractive place to invest.
“The growth we’re now seeing is a tick for our new approach.”
The Mayor said the Council doesn’t have any more major project development applications sitting on its books at the moment.
However, he had heard rumours other regional businesses were also planning upgrades or expansions to their sites in the next few years, and he welcomed that.
“When I hear people say the South Burnett is dying because retail is going through a transformation at the moment, I can understand why some people might think that,” he said.
“But the truth is the exact opposite, it’s just that most of the growth is happening outside the retail space.
“What we need to do now is grow our agricultural capacity through better transport routes and irrigation.
“We’re an agricultural area and when our farmers do well, our whole economy does well.
“So that’s something I’m going to keep working on.”