Gladstone ‘convert’ set for a new challenge

FAREWELL: GILG chief executive Kurt Heidecker is moving on after seven years.
FAREWELL: GILG chief executive Kurt Heidecker is moving on after seven years. Tom Huntley

KURT Heidecker came to Gladstone in 2009 on a four-month contract to set up the Gladstone Industry Leadership Group. His job was to recruit a group CEO.

Seven years later, he is about to leave that role, and leave a region he has grown to love.

It hasn't always been that way. His first visit was about 30-odd years ago with his father; they stood at Auckland Point, looking out at the harbour.

"I wasn't impressed at all," he said.

When he was invited to set up the industry group he still had that impression in his mind, although it wasn't an issue because it was just for four months.

"I was on sabbatical from an IT company at the time, and was a good opportunity to fill in some time.

"But after being here for that time I realised, some way through the recruitment process that my impression had completely turned around and I decided to go for the job myself."

The impression of Gladstone felt by him so long ago is still one that Gladstone suffers from, he explains.

"It goes back for many years - probably 50 or so. In fact, the forerunner to Gladstone Area Promotions and Development Limited was an image committee.

"The fact is that industry is a major part of our being. Our challenge is for people within our community to agree that they live in a wonderful place which has a huge amount to offer.

"It needs to start with the cab driver, the blokes around the barbie, to say 'I love living in Gladstone'. Once we achieve that we can then pass the message on to the wider community outside of Gladstone.

"I can recall taking people from other parts of the country on industry tours and they have said 'I can see the sky!' They have been stunned at how clean our community is."

He said it is important that the people of Gladstone promote the great things about living in the region - the prosperity, quality of life, no traffic issues.

The past seven years have seen significant changes and a diversification of industrial sectors, he said.

"For many years our economy was based around aluminium. The extension into the energy industry has been a good thing. It means that we don't have all our eggs in one basket so that when one commodity is struggling another will be doing OK.

"Every year I've been here the leaders of our major industries have had to cope with significant challenges - the Australian dollar, emissions, renewable energy target, skills shortages, wage pressures; and it's a credit to the leaders that they have been able to continue to operate."

He has seen his role as a bridge between industry and community.

"When I arrived here it was a very emotional situation - there was a common outrage in the community about various issues such as air quality and industrial operations in general. There was a huge amount of suspicion. There still is and the issues are still there to some extent, but at least there's a better understanding. However, it's not one of those issues where you can just tick a box. It's an ongoing conversation that has to be had."

Following a "boom" four years ago where the city has seen the largest surge in construction ever, he now describes the present climate as "boom normal; back to doing what we have been doing for many years - processing minerals and adding value to them".

"We are now back to the point where we have thousands of people working in several world-class industries."

He says there will be no significant projects at least over the next five years.

"It's quite likely that the next cycle will come from a totally unexpected sector.

"If you had said to someone that there was an industry to be had from coal seam gas, which was a nuisance to the coal industry, you would have been laughed at. Look what's just happened here - a completely new massive industry!"

So where to from now for Kurt?

"My partner Julie-Ann has found it hard to find satisfying work in Gladstone. She came here because of my job. Now it's time for her to have her turn. She has found a job she loves on the Gold Coast and I will follow her and see what happens."

Mr Heidecker will be replaced by Patrick Hastings, who knows Gladstone well. He is currently employed in the LNG industry in Western Australia, and was formerly working for QGC in Gladstone.

Topics:  gladstone industry leadership group

Death threat to mayor, locked medico in room

Peter Midgely leaves the Gladstone court precinct after getting bail.

Peter Midgely made threats to kill former mayor Gail Sellers

Wives talk of lost husbands after trawler tragedy

ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Cheryl Roberts, Melissa Henderson, Brieana Andersen, Michael Schofield and Lyn Chivers at the memorial ceremony for Matthew Roberts and David Chivers who were tragically lost at sea on April 4, 2016.

Lost fishermen will not be forgotten

Dredging begins in Gladstone's port

Dredging the 2.3km Narrows crossing of the QCLNG and APLNG gas pipelines. The dredging involves a small backhoe dredge mounted on a barge, two tug boats, a survey vessel. After the pipelines are laid in the same trench, they will be covered with rock for protection from shipping and will still allow sufficient depth for boat traffic through The Narrows. Photo taken on the GPC Gladstone Harbour Tour.

BUOYS removed to make room for dredging operations.

Local Partners

Taylor Swift files lawsuit over alleged groping

Taylor Swift source Bang

Swift has commenced legal action against a DJ over the incident

Kanye West threatens to boycott Grammys

West says he won't go to the Grammys if Frank Ocean's not nominated

Why this actress wasn't embarrassed by nude photo leak

Leslie Jones source Bang

'If you wanna see Leslie Jones naked, just ask,' she said

Dad's Army comic genius Jim Perry dies

Jimmy Perry, the creator of Dad's Army.

Dad's Army series captured all that British people savour

Check out some fashions from the Coast festival

FASHION: Ocean Zen range.

Images from the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival show what's hot

Australian Survivor's magician Matt out of tricks

Australian Survivor contestant Matt Tarrant.

SHOW'S power couple looks unstoppable in race to the finish.

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

Push to sell homes that flooded Gladstone's market

Suburban housing in Glenvale, Toowoomba, Friday, October 17, 2014. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle

URGENT push to cash-up first home buyers investing in Gladstone.

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.